MEMPHIS – Vance Veazey’s birthday is in a couple of weeks. He’ll turn 45.
Tuesday, in a boiling noon-day sun, the former Ole Miss All-SEC golfer was gripping and ripping away on the driving range at TPC Southwind with the passion of a 25-year-old.
For two hours, and with the help of an occasional breeze, Veazey toiled and sweated to improve his game … one he’s played professionally for 20 years.
“I just keep on plugging,” he said, toweling the sweat off his exposed forearms. “Hopefully, good things will happen.”
Something good happened for the Senatobia native and Memphis resident in October when he earned his fourth PGA Tour card with a top 25 finish on the 2009 Nationwide Tour.
Veazey won one Nationwide event, the season-opening Panama City (Fla.) Championship, and had three top 10 finishes. His final earnings for 2009 were $193,243.
Still, Veazey termed it an “odd” year.
“It really wasn’t a good year,” he said. “I had a lot of inconsistent play, but again, that’s golf. My career’s been a little bit that way.”
However, the bottom line is those “odd” 12 months on the links earned Veazey another shot – a Tour card – to play on bigger and much-greener stages.
Heading into this week’s annual St. Jude Classic, he has made just three cuts in 10 PGA events. His best finish was 22nd in January in the Farmers Insurance Open. In late February, he placed 28th in the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
He is coming off a 70th-place finish two weeks ago in the Byron Nelson Classic. Maybe, this week, on a course he has played numerous times, Veazey can make his 10th appearance in the St. Jude his best ever.
He tied for 10th here in 2007 and took home a $156,000 payday for his best career finish in a PGA tournament.
“It’s all about having your big weeks and being patient, waiting on those good things to happen,” he said.
Veazey enters the St. Jude healthy. His once ailing back, knee and thumb are no longer hindrances. He’s got his blood sugar problem – hypoglycemia – under control. He carries a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his golf bag every round to help him maintain his sugar levels.
“You do this 20 years, it’s going to take a toll on you,” he said. “You have to keep yourself in as good a shape as you can.”
He paused for a second and looked around the crowded practice range, then said, “There’s probably not one person on the range who hadn’t experienced some (health) problem.”
With that, Veazey grabbed a club from his bag and went back to work.
St. Jude Classic
– Today: Championship-Pro Am,
– Thursday-Sunday: First
Round-Final Round, 7 a.m. Thurs-
day-Friday; 8:30 a.m. Saturday-
– Where: TPC Southwind
– TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-
Sunday); CBS (Saturday-Sunday)
– Purse: $5,600,000
– Winner : $1,008,000
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal