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December 06, 2001

The other end of the clubhouse
By Dan Patrick

I watched The Masters like everyone else did. I wanted to see the history -- if it was made. My afternoon was a bit different, though, because I watched The Masters with Woody Austin, a PGA touring pro who is on his own kind of streak. He's missed 10 straight cuts.

Woody Austin
Woody Austin has missed 10 consecutive cuts and lives in a very different world than Masters winner Tiger Woods.

Austin travels right now with his wife and two little boys, both under 3. They pack for five weeks on the road at a time. The Austins stay at hotels and motels rather than enjoying the comforts of renting a private residence like the top pros do at many events. Tiger Woods is at one end of the golf spectrum. Woody Austin, along with many other players, is at the other. Winning four straight majors is not what motivates these guys. Winning half a million dollars and keeping their cards is the carrot dangling in front of them. Forget about gearing up for the majors. How about three good weekends? A lot of guys will take that.

And it isn't always the greens that stop these guys from obtaining a little bit of security. In 1997, Woody Austin went to a chain eye-care center and they made him a pair of glasses. But they put the lenses on incorrectly and Austin has had problems with depth perception ever since. It's a subtle thing he tried to play through, not knowing that the lens on the right side had the prescription to correct the vision in his left eye and vice versa. A simple mistake, really, but it makes things tough for a golfer.

Austin jokes around, though. He was wondering what his next career will be. Banking maybe. He asked me if there were any openings at ESPN. That kind of stuff. He's won once, at the Buick, but he knows that missing 10 consecutive cuts means he's got some work to do. And choices to make.

I think we imagine that most professional golfers look at Tiger Woods and take aim at his accomplishments. They think, "That's what I want to be." But Woody Austin looks at Joe Durant and says, "If he can do it, I can do it."

He wants to catch lightning in a bottle. Get hot long enough to win or at least notch a few top-five finishes. Woody Austin went to the PGA Tour qualifying school in 1997 and he'd rather not fall that far again.

So right now, he's lugging his family around to each tour event hoping that this week will be the week he gets hot. On his way to Hilton Head, Austin stopped by to play in the Hootie and The Blowfish charity tournament in South Carolina. And in middle of trying to take care of his family, Austin spent $700 on an auction item to benefit underprivileged children in South Carolina.

Other touring pros confirmed what I found out. There is not a nicer or more generous player on the PGA Tour than Woody Austin. And who else would you expect to help out kids but a golfer with a name right out of "Toy Story"?

While we watched the tournament, Austin never criticized a player or a shot. He just commented on tough breaks or near misses. He was not rooting against Tiger but he clearly wanted to see Phil Mickelson or David Duval win their first majors.

The new glasses come in this week. Tiger is off. So check your TV and the papers to see if another streak on the PGA Tour comes to an end this weekend.

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