If there is a player to have experienced the highs and lows of professional golf, Ewan Porter might be the poster child.
The New South Welshman won twice on the then Nationwide Tour both at home and in the United States, contended at his national Open and played major championships. He then turned to a career in the golf media, where he has covered majors, interviewed Jack Nicklaus and become a respected commentator with a fresh approach.
In contrast, the 37-year-old quit playing the game for a living on multiple occasions before finally doing so for good in 2013, missed more cuts than he made on the PGA Tour’s secondary Tour and wrote a book – Tour Confidential – that received mostly positive feedback, but also some negative from golf’s inner circle that suggested he threw people under the bus.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Porter identifies a favourite moment in the game as one that encapsulates both these sides of his golf story.
“Jeez there is a lot isn’t there. It’s hard to pinpoint one or the other,” Porter told Golf Australia magazine. “I think the stand out one for me is, actually last weekend was the 10th anniversary, my win in Valdosta, Georgia, which was my second Korn Ferry Tour win, but first on US soil.
“And it was just quite incredible. It was a pretty volatile period of my life, where the day after that tournament I was all set to quit the Tour and fly back to Australia with Annabel Rolley, who I was dating at the time. We were moving back to Sydney and obviously plans had to change quite significantly after that.
“Back in 2008 I won the Moonah Classic, which gave me the exemption onto the Nationwide Tour, so I basically played all of 2009 with full status, then 2010 I still had good status but it was sort of dwindling if I didn’t play well.
“So, at the beginning of 2010 I qualified at Kingston Heath for the British Open in January, but between then and my win in April I had missed I think it was every cut, I might have made one and had a top-10 at the New Zealand PGA, but outside of that I was zero for six cuts on the Nationwide.
“After that event in Georgia, I had decided that I was going to come back to Sydney, I had status to play the One Asia Tour, and I was going to really concentrate on that and the Australian stuff.
“The week prior to Georgia, I was playing the Volvo China Open, and was going pretty well until I bogeyed the last four holes in round two to miss the cut by one. And then I couldn’t change my flight, so I couldn’t leave Shanghai till Monday, and at the time I was renting an apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida with Annabel and she had gone to London while I was in China.
“We were in Florida under the impression that she was going to get a golf teaching job at one of the exclusive resorts there but ran into a few visa issues. I used my points to fly her to London and go and stay with a friend that week. But while she was in London, there was a volcano that erupted in Iceland and it disrupted all air traffic in Europe.
“I flew from Shanghai back to New York and connected to Florida, I got in midnight Monday night into Palm Beach. My body clock was all over the place, so I stayed up till about 5am and was communicating with Annabel and that’s when we decided we were going to leave America.
“I spent all of Tuesday and majority of Wednesday morning packing up the apartment, throwing everything in a rental car I had, and then lunchtime Wednesday I drove eight hours up to Valdosta.
“I had only played the tournament once before and I had missed the cut, so I didn’t have that fond a memories of the place.
10 years ago today and my most special win @KornFerryTour. 0/6 cuts coming into it in 2010, cleared out apartment in FL two days before event and set to fly home to 🇦🇺 the next day and quit the tour. Crazy, crazy game! pic.twitter.com/xo4D8hRb6h— Ewan Porter (@ewanports) April 24, 2020
“I got in late Wednesday night and was billeted out with a family on the golf course. Thankfully, Annabel got the first flight out of London to New York on Wednesday afternoon. So, she got into New York Wednesday night, then on Thursday flew into Jacksonville, Florida.
“So, I got in late Wednesday afternoon, teed it up with one the sons from the family I was staying with caddying, played first thing Thursday morning and, I don’t know how, shot five under par.
“Then I drove two and a half hours from Georgia to Florida to go and pick Annabel up from the airport, and then back to Georgia again.
“I was actually tied for second going into the final round with Jhonattan Vegas one shot behind David Hearn, and our tee time the last day was at 12pm. And at 9am I was at a coffee shop in town and the heavens opened up and there was a vicious storm coming through and it looked pretty set in.
“I was just saying ‘I hope this round gets cancelled’. At that point of the year I hadn’t made any money, at least if the round got cancelled I finish second and make about 50 grand, I’m laughing. I don’t want to go and butcher it.
“So, anyway it ended up being a three hour delay and thankfully it wasn’t any longer, because when I finished there was about 15 minutes of daylight left. But it was really windy that final day and I’ve always thrived in difficult conditions and on tougher golf courses because I always just mentally am prepared for the battle and it is going to sort the men out from the boys so to speak. And I also knew that it was a very long golf course, in fact it was the longest on Tour at the time over 7,700 yards, I just knew that no one was going to shoot a low score and come chasing.
“As long as I didn’t shoot myself in the foot and have 100, I should be up there somewhere at the end of the day and I shot a couple of under and held off Johnny by a shot.
“I watched my post round interview when the Korn Ferry Tour tweeted it two weekends ago and I think I said to the on course commentator that I was glad we weren’t playing another hole because I’m about to spew my guts up and my heartrate is about 200. That’s exactly how I felt, I think if there was another hole I would have made a 10 because I was so nervous.
“From my win at the Moonah Classic, I had a third place finish in Boise and I had qualified for the British Open, so I had a couple of good performances and went close to winning the Aussie Open at Royal Sydney. But outside of that I missed something like 75 percent of my cuts. I was extremely inconsistent, and to just get that second win, a lot of people would consider one win a flash in the pan, so to be able to do it again it really proved that I could do it and that I was one of the better players to there.
"That was my entire golfing career in a nutshell. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, it was either extremely high or very low.” - Ewan Porter.
“Unfortunately that consistency was something that always alluded me, but when I look back on my career, I am extremely proud of having won in America and having won multiple times.
“And just overall, more proud of what I achieved, because when I was playing, nothing was ever good enough.
“I think you are always striving for something bigger and better, and I know now with my broadcasting and media career I am trying to have a lot more gratitude for the journey because really at the end of the day that’s what it is all about, life is a journey and trying to appreciate every step. And I don’t think I did that well enough when I was playing.
“When the Tour did tweet that out last weekend, one of the American guys, JJ Killeen, sent me a message saying he and Brendan Steele missed the cut and they went fishing that weekend and were watching the golf and they were saying to each other about me, that you just can’t teach heart.
“And that was very, very complimentary and I didn’t think of that at the time because you are just grinding and trying to do your best, but when I do look back at it, I am extremely proud of what I did overcome.
“There were a hell of a lot of demons that I had accumulated and to overcome all of that and then perform under such immense pressure down the stretch, was I guess very commendable and unfortunately that was my last win, but to have done it and tasted success a couple of times, I had strived to do it, albeit I was hoping it would be the PGA Tour, but I had strived to do it as a kid and when I turned professional I wanted to chase victory and I know a lot of guys would give anything to have the success that I did.
“But just really looking back on that victory, the Moonah one was brilliant, it was extremely special because I had just lost one of my close friends a month prior to that and it got me on the Tour, and that was euphoric.
RIGHT: Porter's 2010 included some extreme highs, like his win in Georgia and playing The Open, as well as thoughts of quitting the game for good. PHOTO: Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
“But I think that was still very early on in the journey, so to have accumulated all of those demons between ’08 and 2010 and sort of quit the game for three months in ’09 and then to be quitting it again and quitting America. Then after that victory to sort of put all that to bed with a win, it was a crazy period.”
Not unlike having a variety of favourite memories to choose from, the list of less joyous occasions on the golf course is a substantial one for Porter. But despite his frank admissions of emotional displays and the game bringing him to his figurative knees, once again, one moment from his days on the Nationwide, now Korn Ferry Tour stands out.
“I’ve got so many, so, so, so many. I mean to be honest with you I have cried multiple times on the golf course. Cried just because the game had driven me to despair that was at times when outside of golf I just didn’t really know what I was going to do.
“There is one moment that stands out though, I don’t know if you would call this a worst or notorious or infamous moment, but it’s pretty funny, to be honest when you think about it.
“In 2005, my first year playing on the Nationwide, in July and I think I had only made one or two cuts for the year and finished way back in those, just really struggling. I had been with my girlfriend at the time for about five years and that was about to come to an end, and I knew it.
“I was playing a tournament in Wisconsin, I was on the cut line playing the 14th in the second round and I made a triple bogey and there is a couple of hundred people around the green and I am absolutely fuming. And I just said to myself don’t carry on, don’t look like an idiot in front of these people.
“So, I carried it with me to the 15th, which was a little par-3, I mean it was a wedge. Maybe even a sand wedge. I pulled out a 7-iron because it was the first club that I saw. I hit the ball, I walked off the tee.
“I don’t even know where the ball went, but I walked off the tee and there was a cart path and I slammed the club straight into the cart path twice, then I helicoptered the 7-iron into the jungle never to be seen again. And then kept walking with my head down for another 15 feet just yelling and abusing myself.
“Then I looked up and realised there was a Golf Channel camera behind the green capturing everything.
“The next week the tournament was in Springfield, Missouri and I was rooming with Scott Gardiner, and again I missed the cut.
“Scotty had made the cut and on Saturday morning at about 8 o’clock, he calls me absolutely in stitches during a weather delay.
“All the players had gone into the players’ lounge and they are watching SportsCenter on ESPN, they have a segment called the ‘Not Top-10 Plays of the Week’. My “incident” was number eight on that. Jason Gore won three times on the Nationwide Tour that year and I was the only player to make SportsCenter that year.
“Not that I would condone what I did … but all the stories mentioned above from the highs to that point, that was my entire golfing career in a nutshell. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, it was either extremely high or very low.”