WATCH: Financial planner Kevin Carrigan was happy to grind out an even par 70 in the first round and is hoping to make the cut.
Ile Bizard, Que.— Kevin Carrigan is perhaps one of the golfers who would best know what to do with the $1-million top prize that comes with winning the RBC Canadian Open.
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That’s because Carrigan, the winner of consecutive Canadian Mid-Amateur Championships, isn’t a full-time golfer. He’s a 28-year old investment adviser based in Victoria who rarely practices, has juggled calls from clients while prepping for his second Canadian Open and spent thousands of dollars chasing a dream he thought was behind him.
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“As soon as golf stopped mattering and I had no interest in pursuing it, my game turned around,” Carrigan, who will tee it up Thursday morning at Royal Montreal Golf Club, said. “This game is easy when it doesn’t matter.”
Carrigan isn’t being completely genuine when he says golf doesn’t matter. It actually matters a great deal to the affable twenty-something. He’s found his greatest successes have come when he acts like it isn’t the most important thing in his life.
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It wasn’t always that way. Carrigan, who went to the University of Texas, Arlington — pondered turning pro after college. He played in a group of tournaments to gauge whether he was ready to make the leap to golf’s mini-tours, where golfers will often spend years in a purgatory chasing possibiities.
But Carrigan’s pre-pro tour didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. He finished middle of the pack at the tournaments and elected to put his economics degree to work instead of his golf clubs.
“It was always what I wanted to do,” he says about putting his education to work. “I honestly never skipped class, except for golf. Never for a hangover or anything. I went to all my classes unlike some of my teammates.”
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So he started as an investment adviser after graduating in 2010, a business nearly as competitive as golf. And he stopped worrying about his game.
Never a guy who pounded balls on the range, he entered some amateur tournaments without a ton of preparation or many expectations. His results were solid. His attitude of not worrying about results was leading, ironically, to better golf.
Carrigan entered the 2012 Canadian Mid-Amateur at Point Grey in Vancouver, but instead of banging balls in the week leading up to it, he went to Seattle with some buddies to watch a friend who plays for the Mariners.
“Instead of grinding the week before I went down to Seattle on a boys’ weekend,” he said. “Didn’t touch a club for five days and played the practice round. I went out and shot the low round for the tournament. I held on and won by three.”
That got Carrigan a spot in last year’s RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., an experience he says was almost overwhelming for a guy who suggests retirement investment advice for a job. He missed the cut, but attributes it largely to struggles with his short game. He proved to himself he could play with golf’s big boys.
Along the way, he moved up the rankings of golf’s amateurs, at one point ranking as the top Canadian amateur. All the while he kept up with his clients at the investment firm. Even this week, he’s taken phone calls and worked his email to deal with clients who need his services. That’s not something your typical PGA Tour pro has to deal with.
“And they shouldn’t,” he said. “They have a job to do.”
Most of his clients don’t understand his place in the golf world, anyway, he says.
“If they know golf, I’ll tell them how I’m doing,” he said. “But I honestly don’t think most people know the scope of what they are dealing with. Most people know Tiger Woods, but don’t know the PGA Tour. So I tell them I’m playing in a PGA Tour event, they say, ‘That’s great.’ But I kind of prefer that.”
His second mid-amateur win brings him to Royal Montreal this week. Carrigan is more confident and comfortable than last year, and is convinced the course suits his power game. He’ll tee it up at 8:50 am on Thursday alongside Kevin Tway and Miguel Angel Carballo.
He continues to chase his dream, spending thousands to play amateur tournaments. He’s now the top-ranked mid-amateur in the world and will enter the U.S. Mid-Amateur at the start of September. The winner gets a spot in the Masters next April, which is enough enticement for Carrigan to keep spending his holidays and cash keeping his game sharp.
“The only thing I stand to lose is other opportunities,” he said. “But at the end of the day I should probably be working anyway.”