At the 42nd Texas State Open this week at the Lakes at Castle Hills Golf Course in Lewisville, just outside of Dallas, there will be professional golfers of all kinds.
From current NCAA champion and PGA Tour rookie John Peterson to past champions Casey Devoll, Robert Gwin and Mark Walker, all of whom should be counted on to make an inspired showing at the 72-hole professional championship, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
But of all the players in this week’s field, no one is looking forward to the week as eagerly – or needs the tournament more – than Jaxon Brigman.
“There is no better place for me to be than the golf course. There is no better place than the driving range to escape life,” Brigman said of his pre-tournament preparations.
If anyone needs to escape life, it probably would be Brigman. He figured he always would be remembered in an unspectacular career as the golfer who earned his PGA Tour card in the 1999 Qualifying School, only to sign for a higher score than he actually shot, which resulted in him missing qualifying by a shot.
He has never come close to the PGA Tour in Q-School since. Sad and bitterly disappointing, but hardly tragic.
He entered the 2012 season playing on the Adams Golf Mini-Tour but has been limited to a single event.
A Louisiana car accident on the way to try to qualify for the New Orleans PGA Tour event cost him time on the course. There also was a domestic abuse-related arrest earlier this year, for which he was not formally charged.
Then in mid-May, as he was preparing for another tournament, he received word that his estranged wife and two daughters had been involved in a major traffic accident near their home in Frisco.
They were airlifted to a local hospital, but his 3-year-old daughter, Tatum, who was buckled in her car seat, did not survive.
Suddenly, thoughts of a career revival, a wrong scorecard and three-foot putts seemed awfully trivial.
“Life can be really mean some of the time, it really can,” Brigman said.
The funeral visitation for the family was held the same day as the final round of the Byron Nelson Championship (where in 2005 Brigman had recorded his best PGA Tour finish, a tie for 10th). The burial was the next day near where they lived.
Two months later, Brigman tried to play golf for a living again on the Adams Tour. He badly missed a 36-hole cut.
Now he’s trying again, playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption.
“I feel like my game is coming around, but I dodged golf the last couple of months,” he said. “This tournament has given me the motivation to practice again.”
It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for Brigman, a star junior golfer in Abilene. He was recruited to play in college at powerhouse Oklahoma State, where he teamed with future PGA Tour pros Bo Van Pelt and PGA Championship runner-up Bob May.
“All we talked about was playing pro golf,” he says.
Then the Q-School scorecard mistake happened, then lack of success, then loss of confidence, and now real tragedy.
Brigman admits he thinks about what he would be doing if he didn’t play golf.
“I’ve done this my whole life,” he said. “I’m 41 now, who wants somebody who is that old?”
He consulted an OSU teammate who left the game to get a “real” job and he told Brigman he still misses it every day.
So he keeps going. Brigman says he’s now separated from his wife, who has recovered from the wreck, with a divorce pending. He’s looking for a place to play and improve his game and hopes to make this week’s Texas State Open a rare bright spot in a very dark year.
“You just have to keep on trucking. That’s all I can do,” he said.
At least, he hopes to find plenty of time on the range to try to escape life.
Colleyville’s Emily Collins won the Texas Women’s Open on Friday with a 3-and-2 victory over Frisco’s Taylor Newlin.
The final match on the Dye Course at Stonebridge Ranch Country Club was close the entire way before the University of Oklahoma golfer prevailed over the University of Texas-San Antonio player.
Wes Artac, of Kingwood, won the Texas State Junior Championship at Horseshoe Bay on Friday with a 54-hole total of 216. Artac, 16, was the sole leader after each round with scores of 71-73-72, and was not challenged during the final round.
DJ Godoy of Hideaway, and Dallas’ Blaine Hale tied for second at 221.
Frisco’s Courtney Dow, 14, won the girls division. Her final-round 71 allowed her to finish two shots clear of Julia Beck, Maddie McCrary and Alisa Chong.