November 11, 2008
Joe Durant's offseason lasts all of one week.
The PGA Tour veteran wrapped up his Tour schedule Sunday at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in Orlando. Monday, he'll start preparing for the final stage of Tour qualifying school, where he'll compete for his 2009 Tour card after finishing 129th on the 2008 money list.
This week is the only time all year Durant will spend a full week away from golf, resting his body and decompressing his mind for seven precious days.
For Durant, the chance to contribute to the event more than made up for the loss of a day off. He has participated each year since its 2006 debut.
And even before he finished his round Monday, Durant told organizer Mickey Bradley, a PGA Tour rules official who runs the tournament for Habitat, that he'd be back next year.
"Mickey's such a great person I'd do anything in the world for Mickey Bradley," Durant said. "When he asked if I'd come do this, it was absolutely yes, no hesitation."
His friendship with Bradley isn't the only reason the tournament is important to Durant. Like many families on the Gulf Coast, the Durants have been touched by the destructive power of hurricanes.
They lived in a FEMA trailer for probably 18 months, maybe longer," Durant said. "You just thank God for your health and your safety.
Durant's mother, who lives in Pascagoula, saw the bottom floor of her home flooded and destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.
Those experiences have made the Habitat cause a personal one for Durant, 44. They're the reason he went straight from Orlando where he finished fifth and won $184,000 to Gautier.
"Everybody's tired it's the end of the year, and it's a long season," he said. "But the whole thing is, we're all very fortunate to play golf for a living.
"The charitable aspect of the PGA Tour is something we're all proud of: You want to give back. Golf's been good to us, and we want to share the good fortune with others."
Despite the quick turnaround, Durant's playing partners raved about his cheerful attitude.
"It was a great pleasure to play with him," said Steve Warnke, an Ocean Springs native who flew from Detroit to participate. "He's a really nice guy. He made it fun for all of us."
Durant's five-man team, which featured Warnke, Andy Carpenter, Gareth Clary and Samuel Mayfield, shot a net 51 on the pro-am's handicap-weighted scoring system, finishing third, two strokes off the lead.
Though he finished under par on the day including a remarkable eagle chip-in from a buried lie in a greenside bunker Durant joked that he wasn't much help to his amateur partners.
His road back will include a trip to Q-school. Because he finished in the top 150 of the Tour's money list, Durant received an exemption into the final stage of the three-stage qualifying tournament, which begins Dec. 2. He'll have to finish in the top 25 among more than 120 golfers to retain his PGA Tour membership.