NO PLAN B

A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL BE SURPRISED WHEN WINS HIS FIRST PGA TOUR TITLE. BUT DAVID HEARN WON’T BE AMONG THEM. NEITHER WILL HIS FAMILY, HIS FRIENDS, HIS INSTRUCTOR, OR A CERTAIN PRESCIENT GOLF WRITER.

JOHN GORDON March 7 2005

NO PLAN B

A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL BE SURPRISED WHEN WINS HIS FIRST PGA TOUR TITLE. BUT DAVID HEARN WON’T BE AMONG THEM. NEITHER WILL HIS FAMILY, HIS FRIENDS, HIS INSTRUCTOR, OR A CERTAIN PRESCIENT GOLF WRITER.

JOHN GORDON March 7 2005

NO PLAN B

A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL BE SURPRISED WHEN WINS HIS FIRST PGA TOUR TITLE. BUT DAVID HEARN WON’T BE AMONG THEM. NEITHER WILL HIS FAMILY, HIS FRIENDS, HIS INSTRUCTOR, OR A CERTAIN PRESCIENT GOLF WRITER.

JOHN GORDON

“When people ask me when David decided to be a professional golfer, I say, ‘It was always there’,” says his father, Geoff, from his home in southwestern Ontario’s hamlet of Holstein.

“That’s what he always wanted. I asked him halfway through his university studies about his curriculum choices in case it [pro golf] didn’t work out, and he just looked at me and said, ‘Dad, there is no Plan B’.”

“He's going to be a star, no doubt about it,” asserts his close friend Matt Kerr, member services manager at Brantford (Ont.) Golf and Country Club, Hearn’s home course. Kerr caddied when Hearn won the Nationwide Tour’s Alberta Classic last summer, earning $81,000.

“He’s always so positive. He never doubts himself or worries about what could go wrong. When we were leading in Calgary and David McKenzie was getting closer and closer, he said, ‘Oh, I’ll just make birdie’, and he did! You saw that down the stretch at the PGA Tour Qualifying School when he could have let it slip away, but he didn’t.

“I’ve never seen anyone so driven, yet at the same time so calm and focused on his goal.”

“I know champions when I see them,” says Hearn’s swing coach, Shawn Humphries, director of instruction at the Cowboys Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, who works with a number of Canadian Tour players. “The best all have intelligence, competitiveness, mental toughness. There are lots of guys who can stripe it on the range, but only a very few can light it up when the bell rings. David will be one of those.

“He has a chance to be one of the best players in the world. His

John Gordon and Brad Fay cover golf’s majors for Sportsnet.

“I know champions when I see them,” says Shawn Humphries, swing coach of David Hearn, above. “David will be one of them.”

ball striking is exceptional. It reminds me somewhat of Nick Price at his best. David’s mis-hits are a lot of players’ best shots.”

A dozen or so years ago, Geoff Hearn and I stood on the range at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. Hearn wanted to talk to me, in my former capacity as an executive of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, about junior golf development. I suggested that his 12-year-old son might want to hit balls while we old fogies chatted.

David practised for a couple of hours and was reluctant to leave. But before he did, he made it very clear to me that he intended eventually to take his place on that practice tee as a PGA Tour player.

Last September, at the age of 25, he did just that, at the Bell Canadian Open, although not as a full-fledged PGA Tour member. That would come three

months later, when he tied for 21st at Q-School. Although he missed the halfway cut at our Open, he told me he would be back, this time on his own merits and not on a sponsor’s exemption. He was right.

Growing up near Brantford’s other fair-haired son, Wayne Gretzky, Hearn learned the fundamentals from his dad, a liberal Baptist minister who carried a single-digit handicap.

Four nights a week, the two would make the 35-minute trip down the highway to a sports dome in Kitchener, where the lad would hit balls for an hour “or until they would kick us out.” In the summer, they would do laps around the pastoral Pike Lake Golf and Country Club near Harriston, followed by dozens of chipping and putting drills invented by Geoff.

His preparation for the arduous life of a touring professional was aided as well by his mother, Dorothy, a school teacher,

who insisted he be responsible for his laundry, ironing, bookkeeping and other duties from a young age.

Another significant factor was an understanding high school principal who agreed to let Hearn play as much competitive golf as he wanted, as long as his grades were good. Hearn held up

DAVID HEARN STATISTICS HEIGHT 6T WEIGHT 165 LB BIRTDATE JUNE 17,1979 BIRTHPLACE BRAMPTON, ONTARIO RESIDENCE BRANTFORD, ONTARIO; PLAYS OUT OF BRANTFORD G&CC MARITAL STATUS SINGLE EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING SPECIAL INTERESTS MUSIC, MOVIES TURNED PRO 2001 NATIONWIDE TOUR VICTORIES 2004 ALBERTA CLASSIC INTERNATIONAL VICTORIES 2004 TIMES COLONIST OPEN (CANADIAN TOUR)

his end of the bargain with an 80 per cent average while missing as many as 30 days a school year playing golf. He also found time for other sports, piano lessons and the school band.

While Hearn would not win a national amateur title, his reputation earned him his choice of several U.S. colleges. He could have gone to a number of bigname eastern schools, but chose the University of Wyoming for a very specific reason.

“Wyoming’s schedule was better than any of the eastern schools,” he said in an interview earlier this year in the imposing new clubhouse at Brantford G&cc. “I was the number-one player, so I had the chance to play against the best players from Stanford, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, New Mexico, and others.”

Hearn turned pro in 2001 and a year later was named the Canadian Tour’s Rookie of the Year.

After a forgettable 2003, he started off 2004 on the Asian Tour before returning to Canada for a couple of mini-tour wins. Then he won the Canadian Tour’s Times-Colonist Open in Victoria and the Alberta Open on the Nationwide Tour, the PGA Tour’s AAA developmental circuit.

He made the cut in eight of 12 appearances on the Nationwide Tour, with seven top-25 finishes. Despite his limited schedule, he was 35th on the money list. He averaged 295 yards off the tee, led the Tour in eagle average, was second in scoring average, third in putting and was ranked sixth in overall performance.

His breakthrough year coincided with his association in Texas with Humphries, the only coach he’s had besides his father.

“David would have eventually gotten there purely on talent, like most peak-performance athletes,” Humphries says. “What

we did was identify his strengths and focus on them. With David, his ball striking is exceptional, but there were some flaws in his

LL

I had a chance to play against the best.

11

swing that kept him back. Once we minimized those flaws, it was like, ‘Wow!’ Now his good shots

are great and his bad shots are good. That’s what eliminates the disaster holes.”

Canadian PGA Tour veteran Dan Halldorson had a chance to play with Hearn last season. During a conversation at the Canadian Open, Halldorson was analysing the latest crop of young homegrown golfing talent.

While several of them have the physical tools to succeed, only one has impressed him with the requisite desire and psychological toughness to excel at golf’s highest level: David Hearn.

“I’ve always had a vision of a nice, long career on the PGA Tour,” Hearn said that winter day in front of the fireplace at Brantford G&CC. “Hopefully, there will be a few wins and maybe a major or two. You never know.”

Oh, yes, we do. ^

John Gordon is the golf analyst for Rogers Sportsnet.