When Mike Holder recruited Edward Loar to come play for him at Oklahoma State in the mid-1990s, the two drove around the school’s campus course, Karsten Creek, and arrived at the eighth hole. Loar, a tall lefty with an affinity for drawing the ball left to right, walked up confidently on the tee and made an optimistic prediction.
“He looked at that wide expanse of a fairway with no bunkers and a dogleg right which fit his natural shot shape,” Holder recalled. “And he proclaimed, ‘This hole is perfect for me. I will never, ever, miss this fairway.’
“And sure enough, the first round of qualifying the fall of his freshman year, Ed steps up on the eighth tee and what does he do? Misses the eighth fairway. It wasn’t even close.”
More than two decades later, Loar’s competitive golf career mirrors what transpired in Holder’s anecdote. The native Texan never had an issue with belief and for good reason; Loar earned All-American honors every year during a five-victory run at Oklahoma State, played on the 1999 U.S. Walker Cup team with future PGA Tour winners Matt Kuchar and Jonathan Byrd, captured back-to-back Sunnehanna Amateurs, and helped the Cowboys to a national championship in 2000. He may have been overshadowed at the time by teammate Charles Howell III, another future PGA Tour winner, but Loar was not far behind.
The PGA Tour looked just as inviting to Loar as the eighth fairway at Karsten Creek, but he never found success at the highest level. In two decades of professional golf, he had his moments – beating Ernie Els to win the 2004 Kolon Korean Open and finishing No. 4 on the Web.com Tour money list in 2013 are among his highlights – but his career never materialized into what it could have been. It became the life of a journeyman who visited 28 countries and played on nine tours around the world. Loar reached the PGA Tour in 2012 and 2014 but he made the cut in only 13 of 54 starts, a far cry from what he had envisioned.
His best finish was a tie for 18th at the 2000 B.C. Open, his first professional start. The rest of his time, Loar tried to fulfill his initial promise.
“I really thought I would do better after 20 years of playing,” Loar said. “I don’t know if you ever really know how hard it is to be successful in the pro ranks. For an American guy, you’re talking about the PGA Tour and there’s 125 guys in the world there. It’s such a global game that just getting there is a great achievement. Figuring out how to stay there is a whole other thing.
“Would I have liked to have played 15 years on the tour and made $30 million? Of course, who wouldn’t? But I’m probably a better person for the route that I ultimately took.”
Loar is in an introspective mood at the moment because his professional career recently came to an unceremonious close. After grinding for another year on the Korn Ferry Tour, a circuit on which he won twice but from which he perennially struggled to graduate, the 42-year-old decided to let go.
There were two sides to the decision. The part that kept him going for all of these years was how tantalizingly close he was to the PGA Tour and how quickly life can change if a couple of breaks go your way. For whatever reason, Loar’s aspirations often seemed to be running away from him as he searched.
He spent the first five years of his career in Asia, returning each year for a failed attempt at PGA Tour Q-School. He played well overseas and appeared on the verge of a breakthrough in 2006 when he played himself into the penultimate group on Sunday with future Hall of Famers Els and Vijay Singh at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews. He beat both of them and finished in a tie for second behind Pádraig Harrington, a result that apparently clinched his European Tour card. However, Loar hadn’t paid his affiliate fee before the tournament because his bank account was low after paying Q-School entry fees. The technicality prevented him from membership.
There were more close calls along the way. When he reached the PGA Tour in 2012 and lost his card at the end of that season, Loar had an opportunity to return promptly to the big leagues. He needed to finish 1-over par on his last two holes at Q-School to earn his card back for the 2013 season, but he hit it into the water on both holes to sink his chances.
“He had a lot of natural ability, but sometimes it’s just a matter of good fortune or circumstances or capitalizing on opportunities,” Holder said. “For whatever reason, he couldn’t take that next step. His ability or potential exceeded his accomplishments, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why.”
There are always examples of breakthrough victories at the highest level. Lanto Griffin went from being virtually broke to reaching the Korn Ferry Tour to winning the PGA Tour’s Houston Open, all in 2½ years. The game can be that unpredictable. And once a player reaches a certain level, like Loar did, he or she is right there on the doorstep. Even during the 2019 season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Loar didn’t win but he made the cut in his last five starts and tied for seventh in his final event. His No. 78 ranking on the points list didn’t put him close to a PGA Tour card, but it was some of his best golf since 2013.
“He knew he was just one week away from changing his life. That’s why everyone keeps doing it,” said Loar’s brother Nicholas, a reinstated amateur and former college golfer at SMU, where he played for his and Edward’s father, Jay, the former Mustangs’ coach. “I’m sick for him in that golf has been his whole life. His game was about as good as it’s ever been, but I totally get why he’s stepping away.”
“I’m very honest and sincere about what pro golf is. I’m not somebody with my head in the clouds about how great it is. When people asked I told them that it can be great but for most of us it’s not. It’s a hard job with a lot of insecurity and time on the road. I think people appreciated that.” – Edward Loar
What convinced him to stop chasing was the time spent away from his wife, Melaney, and their 8-year-old triplets – sons James and Liam and daughter Collins. He often would be gone 20 of 25 weeks during the thick of the season. He wanted to be a consistent stay-at-home dad. As each year of his golf career passed, so did another year of seeing his kids grow up more through video chatting from a hotel room than being with them at home in Rockwall, Texas.
“With about five tournaments left, I sat down with my wife and decided that the time had come,” Loar said. “If I got my (PGA Tour) card I would keep playing, but if I didn’t, I was ready to do something else. It gave me a sense of relief and peace about the whole thing. If I had the chance to continue playing pro golf that would be pretty cool but being home with my kids is pretty kick-ass, too.
“If you are making $5 million a year, (being on the road) is a little easier to justify. Honestly, I had kind of had enough.”
Two weeks ago when Loar announced through social media that his competitive professional career had ended, it carried the additional weight of a cult hero’s retirement. The bearded man his followers affectionately call “Big E” gained significant clout on Twitter for his entertaining brand of humor and transparency, but it was a bizarre circumstance that connected Loar even more with his devoted audience. A random gentleman reached out to him about six years ago and created an “Ed Loar Tracker” account which featured the tagline “Where Birdies and BBQ Collide.” The account spoofed more notable tracker accounts by posting images of meals Loar would have on the road, a Whataburger No. 5 combo being a classic standby.
The combination of the account’s comedic approach and Loar’s everyman personality – he considers cooking a big steak as his most notable talent outside of golf – inspired an emotional connection with fans who dubbed themselves the “Loar Loonies.” Shortly after Loar announced the end of his playing days, the account sadly went dark.
“There was definitely more interaction with the Ed Loar Tracker account than any other tracker account known to man,” Loar joked. “I’m very honest and sincere about what pro golf is. I’m not somebody with my head in the clouds about how great it is. When people asked I told them that it can be great but for most of us it’s not. It’s a hard job with a lot of insecurity and time on the road. I think people appreciated that.”
The next chapter for Loar mainly will be focused on being with his kids. He is coaching basketball for his sons and still hopes to spend time on the course with them. Loar also earned his insurance license and has started work at K&S Insurance in Rockwall.
“Of course I did, that’s what everyone who plays golf does,” Loar quipped.
He says he still will play in the occasional pro-am or member-guest, although he does not does not expect to pursue reinstated amateur status.
“It would probably take me 10 years (to get amateur status back),” Loar said. “I know it’s kind of a case-by-case but I did play at a relatively high level for almost 20 years. It would be cool because those mid-ams play some great golf courses, but I don’t know how realistic it is for me.”
No matter, getting back into competitive play is the last thing on his mind at the moment. He has a new vision of what the fairway looks like ahead of him, and this time he is not going to miss.
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