The road to success as a professional athlete is pitted with potholes. 

There are dangerous curves as well, and occasional dead ends. And it doesn’t matter the sport.

Brady Sharp can attest to that difficulty as he enters his second year of a three-year plan that he hopes and dreams and continues to believe will lead to a rewarding career as a playing golf professional.

Sharp grew up in Port Orchard, Wash., and played golf at South Kitsap High School. After leading Walla Walla Community College to the 2006 NWAC championship, he turned professional and spent the next 13 years working as an assistant pro at the Walla Walla Country Club.

But about this time last fall — buoyed by the financial backing of an anonymous group of country club members — Sharp decided to strike out on his own in hopes of competing on the Professional Golf Association’s Tour.

“It was probably late November,” Sharp recollected. “My girlfriend, who also caddies for me, asked me, ‘Why haven’t you tried it?’

“I guess I felt it was never in the cards,” Sharp said in response to Tina Hobson’s question. “Maybe it was too hard, I thought, or too expensive, or maybe I just didn’t look into all the ways I could do it.”

That’s when this group of country club members stepped forward and eliminated “too expensive” as an excuse for Sharp to not at least give it a try. The group made a three-year financial commitment to support Sharp in his endeavor but at the same time gave him the option to end his quest if he was convinced it was leading nowhere.

Sharp began by spending the winter in California as a house guest of country club member Howard Crosby, who winters in Palm Desert.

“It was a great place to start because you could practice every day,” Sharp said. “We stayed with Howard in January and February, then hit the road and drove straight to Louisiana.”

In order to qualify for events, Sharp’s only option was to enter Monday qualifying tournaments. Of the 156 players in the Monday fields, six players qualify for the actual tournament.

Sharp’s first “Monday-In” was the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at the Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club in Broussard, La. He played well, he said, but wasn’t among the fortunate six who survived the cut.

Many other Monday qualifiers followed as Sharp and Hobson crisscrossed the country.

“I’ve been to Louisiana and Savannah, Ga., Illinois and Nashville, Tenn,” Sharp said, sounding a bit like country singer Hank Snow in his 1963 hit single I’ve Been Everywhere. 

“Memphis, Dunkirk, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C. and Oxford, Miss.,” Sharp continued. “The goal was to be on the road all year long, and in the first four months we drove 16,000 miles.”

Which is how the financial burden piles up.

“The entry fee alone is $450 for the Monday qualifiers,” Sharp said. “And it costs almost $2,500 for each tournament if you add in room and board and travel.

“And there’s no payout for the Mondays,” he added. “But once you get into the event and make the cut, you are guaranteed something.”

Finally, in early July at the TalonsCove Golf Club in Saratoga Springs, Utah, Sharp broke through. He fired a 7-under-par 65 on the 6,755-yard course and then survived a sudden-death playoff to qualify for his first event.

The Utah Championship began Thursday at the Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, Utah., and Sharp shot a solid 3-under-par 69 in the first round. However, an even-par 72 on Friday wasn’t quite good enough and at 141 for 36 holes he missed the cut by four shots.

“I think what was really special about it was that I knew I belonged,” Sharp said of his first experience in a event. “Even though the others had been on tour for years, I felt comfortable.

“I feel like there was only one instance where I didn’t feel like I would make it,” he added. “I thought I played well enough and scored well enough that I was close to making it into each event. And it was eye opening that my game traveled so well across the country.”

Sharp was particularly encouraged by his performance in July when he attempted to qualify for the Lecom Health Challenge in New York.

“I played Monday in Dunkirk with a guy named Trevor Cone and beat him,” Sharp recalled. “Three weeks later Cone won the Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, Calif.

“It all comes down to putting,” Sharp added. “Everyone hits it so well. It’s all a matter of getting up and down and not making a lot of mistakes.”

And staying healthy, which Sharp was not able to do in 2018. His season was cut short right after the Utah Championship when he was forced to return to Walla Walla suffering from Crohn’s disease.

“I ended up getting sick and had surgery,” Sharp said. “It’s an incurable disease and I’ve had three surgeries in the last 10 months to combat it.”

It was the 33-year-old golfer’s second medical scare in three years. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a non-cancerous pituitary tumor that had to be surgically removed.

“It had been misdiagnosed for 15 years,” Sharp explained.

“I feel like I’ve had enough of the bad cases,” he added. “It can only get better from here.”

Nevertheless, it took Sharp most of the rest of the summer to get his game back in shape. But if his performance at the Yo-Yo Fliers Golf Club in Woodland Hills, Calif., earlier this month is any indication, he has made it back. 

Sharp shot rounds of 72, 70 and 69 in a pre-qualifying tournament and has advanced to the first of three stages of Q-school where hundreds of players compete for a miniscule number of exemptions on the tour.

“I was a little rusty in some areas, but I thought I played really well,” Sharp said. “But the competition is going to get tougher with each stage.

“But as long as I keep at it and stay healthy, I feel real confident about it.”

The next step for Sharp will be the first round of Q-school Oct. 9-12 at The Crosby Club in San Diego, Calif. 

“In the meantime I will just be practicing and getting ready,” Sharp said. “I’ll probably head down two of three days early, because there is a lot of mental preparations.

“I have heard there are a lot of elevation changes at The Crosby Club, kind of like Indian Canyon in Spokane. A lot of tee boxes that are high. I like that kind of golf.”

And if Q-school doesn’t work out, there’s always another year of “Monday-In” opportunities awaiting on pro golf’s arduous road to glory.

Jim Buchan has been at the U-B since Sept. 1, 1968, beginning as a part time sports writer, advancing to full time after one year and then to sports editor until retiring in 2010. He now writes columns and features and occasionally covers games.

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