Bryan Bigley experienced plenty of culture shock, but he also rediscovered his scoring touch under pressure while competing on the Latin America PGA Tour for the last three weeks.
He’s still living the dream, although in a little different form than he first imagined.
“I was living on bottled water and tacos,” said the 29-year-old Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate, who finished tied for second in last weekend’s Mundo Maya Open in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.
Bigley shot rounds of 73, 69, 69 and 71 for a six-under-par 282. He is now 18th on the Latin America PGA Tour’s Order of Merit with $9,157. The top five earn a spot on the Web.com Tour.
“Last week was a very tough test of golf,” Bigley noted. “The course in Mexico was 7,200 yards long, and it was very breezy. There were between five and 10 shots out there that you just had to suck it up and hit a professional shot. There were no bail-out areas.”
Since Bigley only has conditional status on the Latin America PGA Tour, he must Monday qualify for each event. He left the Republic of Guatemala the previous Sunday and flew to Mexico, where the temperatures were soaring over 100 degrees.
“It really opens your eyes when you play in places like Guatemala and Mexico,” said Bigley. “The hotels were nice, but you’ve got to remember that these are developing countries. We all drank bottled water, and there was a huge difference between the upper class and the lower class, especially in Guatemala. For example, the rich people in Guatemala flew in with their helicopters. They would play golf, leave the helicopters lined up on the driving range, and then leave.
“In Guatemala, you could see some of the young workers walking four to five miles, just to go to the golf course and make maybe $10 a day. It makes you appreciate the amenities of America.”
Bigley has competed in three events so far on the Latin America PGA Tour. He qualified for the weekend during his first event and finished 30th. “It was my first week ever playing out of this country, and at least I made some money,” he noted.
“But the second tournament I played in, I missed the cut. It was a very funky course. The elevation difference between the top and bottom of course was more than 1,500 feet. I had a 120-yard wedge shot that you had to hit maybe 60 yards. In my opinion, it wasn’t a great tournament test, but everybody had the same conditions.”
Bigley’s goal is to work his way up the money list and hopefully earn a spot on the Web.com Tour, which is the official developmental tour for the PGA Tour.
“They play eight events in the spring season. I’ll play Argentina next week and possibly one or two more this spring. I won’t play the week of the U.S. Open Local Qualifier in the Dominican Republic, because I’m coming back home to play at Schuyler Meadows. They reshuffle everybody on the money list after eight events, so if I make enough money, maybe I’ll go back to the fall season.”
Bigley said getting a chance to play is more important than the money he makes right now.
“There are no tours in America where I can play and move up,” he said. “My goal is to get to the Web.com Tour, and then, hopefully, to the PGA Tour.”
Bigley said he is playing some very good golf lately.
“My short game is a little sharper this year,” he said. “I’m trying to revert back to simple swing thoughts and use the combination of things I’ve learned over the last few years. I want to see where this goes, and I’m not backing down.”
Not only did Bigley tie for second and pick up a good check, but he also recorded his fourth hole-in-one last week.
Bigley has spent the last seven years as a professional on the eGolf Tour, the Carolinas Pro Tour and the Hooters Tour, and he has won 10 times. But the paychecks have been small.
He’s looking forward to bigger checks, and eventually, a much bigger tour.
Bigley has competed in two PGA Tour events so far, both in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., close to where he currently lives.
As an amateur, he captured two Gazette County Amateur crowns.