by Chip Taulbee
Posted 3/27/2006 12:00 am
Updated 11 months ago
Click here for the chart of the state's 15 top earners.
Only a handful of Arkansas golfers and golfers with Natural State ties earned a living wage on the links this year. But those who did made most of their money in just a couple of weekends on the greens.
John Daly, for example, picked up nearly three-quarters of his winnings last year in just two events. Daly, who hails from Dardanelle, was the state's highest-earning golfer in 2005, bringing in more than $1.7 million in tour events.
Most of that money came from two second-place finishes on the PGA Tour. In April Daly shot a 13-under-par at the Shell Houston Open and walked away with a $540,000 check — though probably not one of those oversized checks the winners get.
Then in October at the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, Tiger Woods bested Daly on the second playoff hole.
Woods walked away with his sixth tour victory of 2005; Daly's consolation was a $750,000 payday.
That's more than any other Arkansas golfer made in tour events last year, save for Fayetteville's Tag Ridings. The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville alum turned five top-10 finishes, among other work, into $892,000 in tour winnings.
Ridings' best finish came on his second-to-last event of the year, the Chrysler Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla. He shot five strokes under par and tied for third, earning him $216,000.
Earlier in the year, Ridings shined at the BellSouth Classic, where he tied for sixth place and took home $162,000. Then in August a seventh-place finish at the Reno-Tahoe Open earned him $101,000. A month later at the 84 Lumber Classic in Farmington, Pa., Ridings shot an 8-under-par, shared a ninth-place finish and won $114,000.
It was his best year on the PGA Tour since joining in 2003. So far this year, Ridings is 80th on the tour's money list with $241,000 in winnings, thanks largely to a fifth-place finish at the Ford Championship earlier this month.
Glen Day's professional golfing career seems to be arcing in a different direction. For Day, who calls the exclusive Alotian Club west of Little Rock his home course, 2005 marked the third straight year he recorded less earnings than the previous year.
A shared ninth-place finish at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee was Day's only top-10 finish in 2005. Of the 28 events he entered, he made the cut only 13 times. And his $372,000 in winnings was his lowest total since 1997.
Even if Day is on the downswing of his professional playing days, he has quite a career to look back on. He ranks 87th on the PGA Tour's career money leaders list, with more than $7.3 million. Until 2004 he ranked in the tour's top 125 every year since joining in 1994. Day's best finish came in 1999 when he won the MCI Classic.
Outside the PGA Tour, perhaps the two most prolific professional golfers with Arkansas ties are the Pappas brothers, Brenden and Deane. Though the younger brother, Brenden, earned most of his money on the PGA Tour in 2005, both now compete on the Nationwide Tour.
Brenden Pappas took home $285,000 in 2005, despite only two top-25 finishes. Brother Deane earned $109,000 over 25 events.
Born in South Africa, both brothers are products of the University of Arkansas, though they now live in Florida.
Sandwiched in between the Pappas brothers on the list of Arkansas' highest-earning golfers is fellow Nationwide Tour member Ken Duke, who earned $113,000 last year.
Duke, an alum of Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, posted several quality finishes in 2005. In March a sixth-place finish at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open earned him $18,000. Two months later he shot an 18-under-par at the Henrico County Open in Richmond, Va., giving him a share of third place and $21,600. Then in July, Duke posted his best finish of the year, second place, at the Canadian PGA Championship, which netted him $48,600.
Unfortunately, Nationwide Tour events do not pay as well as PGA Tour stops, and Duke did not play a single PGA Tour event in 2005. He does, however, already have one under his belt this year. And though he only tied for 26th earlier this month at the Ford Championship at Doral, Fla., he still took home $37,000 for the event.
Duke now lives in and plays out of Boca Raton, Fla., but also plays out of the Maumelle Country Club.
Even less lucrative than the Nation-wide Tour is the Tight Lies Tour, where Arkansans fared quite well.
Jonesboro's David Faught ranked second on the tour's 2005 money leaders list but made only $62,000 on that tour last year. (He earned another $4,000 in other events as well.) Faught posted two first-place finishes and once tied for third.
Also on the Tight Lies Tour was Clark Dennis, who attended UA. Dennis finished 13th on the tour's money list in 2005. Jon Whittaker of Springdale finished 17th. Brother Ron Whittaker, who plays out of the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock, finished 22nd. And Andrew Dahl of Van Buren, who plays out of the Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, ranked 28th.
To go along with all the tour money, many of the golfers made undisclosed sums through endorsements, appearances and lessons. John Daly even has his own show on The Golf Channel, "The Daly Planet."