Back on track, Dylan Meyer is now potentially four rounds from PGA Tour

Back on track, Dylan Meyer is now potentially four rounds from PGA Tour
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“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.” – David Goggins, retired U.S. Navy SEAL and now ultra-endurance athlete and motivational speaker

When Dylan Meyer was at the University of Illinois, his head coach, the highly regarded Mike Small, would constantly challenge his players to dig success out of the dirt. For Meyer, he was usually reluctant to get his hands super dirty, the type of player who’d rather spin records at the local bar than shut off the lights at the team’s practice facility, and had it not been for Small, Meyer might’ve never won six times and made three All-American teams.

So, it was a bit ironic last summer when Meyer found himself back home in Evansville, Indiana, giving golf lessons, both in person and virtually.

You see, Meyer enjoyed helping others get better, much more than grinding for hours on his own game. And with no status on any professional tour and over four years removed from college, Meyer sensed himself gravitating toward the life of a teaching pro consigned to competing only in section events and state-level competition.

There was just one problem: Meyer wasn’t ready for that life.

“That was becoming my career path,” Meyer said. “Not that I don’t love teaching, but that’s not the dream that I have. I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to be the guy I wanted to be and the guy I knew I could be.”

To re-chart his path back toward the PGA Tour, Meyer would need to grow up first. Now 28, Meyer has spent the past year shedding much of the immaturity that has plagued him throughout his career. He’s forced himself out of his comfort zone, and bolstered his game, body and mind. The results have followed, and last week Meyer punched his ticket back to the Korn Ferry Tour and into next month’s final stage of PGA Tour Q-School, where he’ll have four rounds to secure one of at least five PGA Tour cards.

That’s the life Meyer envisioned when he turned professional in Summer 2018. Fresh off a T-4 finish at the NCAA Championship, Meyer rolled right into the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and tied for 20th in his pro debut. A couple weeks later, he shared 17th at the Quicken Loans National, earning enough non-member points to qualify for KFT Finals and the final stage of KFT Q-School, where he secured job security for the following year. He also posted a T-7 at the Sanderson that fall.

SOUTHAMPTON, NY – JUNE 17: Tyrrell Hatton of England (L) shakes hands with Dylan Meyer of the United States (R) on the 18th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 17, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

This pro golf thing was going to be easy – or so Meyer thought.

He missed 13 of 14 cuts in his rookie KFT season and lost his card.

Two years after that he handed back his PGA Tour Canada membership, too.

“That was my biggest epiphany: Losing my card, again, on Canada,” Meyer said. “You lose Canada status playing against guys you used to beat all the time and you’re sitting there going, ‘What has happened? How did I go from having my card in 2019 to not having a card on Canada in 2021?’ You keep losing status. You’re going the other way. And I was hanging so much on, Oh, I was a good player at Illinois. You’re not that same player anymore. No one cares what you did in your past and your amateur record. It’s great to put on a resumé and all that, but you have to go perform each and every week, and I just wasn’t doing that, and I was blaming everybody else but myself.”

A conversation with Small last year during an Illini fundraising event help set Meyer straight. It was Small who used to shoulder the brunt of holding Meyer accountable in college, and after graduating, Meyer couldn’t adjust to losing that tutelage. During his junior year at Illinois, right after winning Big Tens, Meyer was hospitalized for six days, lost 20 pounds in about a week and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – he quickly went on medication and changed his lifestyle to quell the issue. But as a pro, he slacked from his strict diet a few times, once ending up in the emergency room in Utah in 2019 and two years ago needing to stop for a bathroom 16 times while driving back from a Canadian event in Montreal.

It was intervention time: Was Meyer finally going to mature, or was he going to keep falling back on his laurels and continue to get nowhere? Meyer chose the former.

He stopped trying to chase distance through equipment and instead dedicated himself to the gym. He’s sticking to his diet, his colitis is in remission, and he’s gained a healthy 30 pounds. As a result, his swing speed has climbed 9 mph, up to 115 mph.

“I’m definitely still not a bomber,” said Meyer, who carried his driver around 265 in college, “but it’s now at a livable place to be at.”

Competitively, Meyer, job-less for the first time since his amateur days, started playing every Minor League Golf Tour event he could. He won the circuit’s tour championship last winter. This year he’s cut his teeth in Monday qualifiers and several state opens and other local events.

“My whole goal was to compete as much as I can just to be ready for the big moments, to put myself in position to finish off golf tournaments, maybe catch lightning in a bottle at a Monday qualifier,” said Meyer, who this year lost to Vince India in a playoff at the Illinois State Open, was in the final group at the Nebraska State Open and finished second to a 62-62 at the Fendrich Open in Evansville. “But I knew my path back was likely going to be through Q-School.”

Which brings us to last week. Meyer found himself among those competing at the second-stage site in Port St. Lucie, Florida, not far from Meyer’s part-time home in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was fresh off a closing 65 to get through his first-stage qualifier by a couple shots, and even with bad weather rolling in, Meyer was confident he’d have a good shot of advancing this time, too.

Then came the opening 78.

“Six over,” Meyer recalls. “It was windy, rainy, and I let the elements and the environment control my space. I got home that night, and I had to sit and think about what I was going to do. Was I going to bounce back? I went deep into the memory bank, back to another thing Coach Small used to always talk about. … No matter what the conditions were, I was going to play my game and be who I was and find my way back.”

Meyer was 10 shots better in Round 2. The next round he “made a lot of pars, a lot of pars.” But through 12 holes of Friday’s final round at the Tesoro Club, Meyer was just 2 under on the day and a few shots back of the cut line.

“I knew what I needed to do,” Meyer said. “I needed four more birdies coming in.”

He birdied Nos. 13 and 14, barely missed another at No. 15, tapped in for birdie at No. 16 after burning the edge on his eagle try, and after a par at No. 17, he arrived at the par-4 18th hole a birdie away from advancing to final stage.

The 15-foot putt on the last was make or break, and Meyer calmly went through his routine, stepped up to his ball, put a nice roll on it and watched as it dropped into the cup with perfect speed.

The closing 66 earned Meyer one of the final two tickets to final stage, which will be played Dec. 14-17 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“Literally a photo finish,” Meyer said. “It was something good to see after an entire year of close encounters of almost winning.”

And after years of underachieving.

“I don’t want to say I figured it out because that’s just the curse,” Meyer says, “but I think I’ve found a way for me to be successful in my own way and to believe in myself and build confidence the correct way.”

Meyer knows he’s not Nick Hardy, his Illinois contemporary and now a PGA Tour winner who practices out of Meyer’s home club in South Florida, Tequesta Country Club. He’s not Eric Cole, another Tequesta regular who just wrapped up an incredible rookie season on Tour, either. He’s also not the Dylan Meyer who was a top-10 amateur in the world.

He’s the guy who still has dreams of playing on the PGA Tour, and the guy who finally is on the proper track to get there.

“That’s where I want to be,” Meyer said of Hardy and Cole. “They’re out there chasing the dream that I have, and I hope to be out there with them.”

Four more rounds and that potential could be realized.

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