My regular weekly MSN/Sympatico column is now online.
Here’s a taste:
A year ago, heading into the Nationwide Tour’s Ford Gretzky Classic in Collingwood, Ont., Chris Baryla was considered one of Canada’s rising golf stars.
In 2003, while an amateur, Baryla played in the U.S. Open and became the first amateur in a generation to play on the weekend at the Canadian Open. In 2007 he narrowly missed winning on the Nationwide. Next stop the PGA Tour.
That’s why it seemed so shocking when Baryla carded a 94 during the second round at the Gretzky last year.
“It was actually 96,” Baryla laughs, correcting me.
During the round the Vernon, B.C.-based pro had suffered a debilitating back injury. It had plagued him for the months leading up to the Gretzky event, but was so bad during the round that Baryla hit most of his shots with one hand. The only reason he didn’t withdraw from the tournament was because of the pro-am format and the fact organizers had offered him an exemption into the event. So he suffered until the end, putting up a score that would be lousy for a weekend hacker, and downright undignified for a touring pro regarded as among the best in Canada. He made a total of $1,713 last year playing pro golf, down from $120,223 only two years previous. But there was a bigger question “ would he be able to play again? At the age of 25, Baryla’s future was murky, especially when doctors had difficulty determining what was causing his back problems. As it was, he’d recover, only to start playing again and find himself with the same back injury. He thought his time as a pro golfer was perhaps at an end.