D.A. Points has worked diligently on his golf game. The former Illini golfer played a year on the PGA tour in 2006, lost his card and played on the Nationwide Tour before earning a spot for the 2009 season back on the big tour again. Playing the best golf of his life, he earned another year for 2010.
"It's just been solid," Points relates. "I had a few top 10's, third place at the Byron Nelson was really special. It's a big event. I birdied the last hole and secured my card that week."
Earning his card while playing on the PGA tour was an important new experience for him. There are many outstanding golfers around the world, and only the top 125 on the PGA tour money list are guaranteed spots on the tour for the following year. This was the first time he didn't have to either qualify in Q School or through the Nationwide Tour. It took him awhile to know how to react.
"When your job is secure for the next year, it makes you relax. It was actually a good challenge because I'd never been in that position before. I didn't know how to set new goals. My goal has always been to finish in the top 125. When I had done that, I was like 'Wow, what do I do now?'
"I actually struggled for a little bit, but then I realized it's about winning. Sure, you want to keep your job as your first goal. But you want to win. I got a little more focused on what I need to win. That is, being efficient. Like football and basketball, you've got to do the little things. Make your short putts, put the ball in the fairway, and not make mistakes. You've got a good opportunity, and you've got to take advantage.
"Winning is what I should have thought about all along, but it was my first year back on tour since '06. It was like, 'What do I have to do to keep my job?' Now I've got that secured for next year, what things in the offseason can I do to get a little bit better and get myself ready in January to win?"
Like literally thousands of other golf hopefuls, Points has had to endure numerous hardships to get on the tour where he can literally make a fortune over his entire career. But he feels those experiences are all part of a necessary growth process.
"Absolutely. Anybody who doesn't have to cut their teeth a little bit doesn't appreciate what we have been able to accomplish. Having been on the Nationwide Tour, having played in Canada, having gone all over the place and had to work my way up really makes me appreciate and makes me not want to leave. That's a big factor."
People hear most often about all the luxuries at the disposal of golf's superstars. But for most professionals, life on the Tour is much tougher.
"It's the best job in the world, I'm not gonna lie. But at the same time, it's not as glamorous as a lot of people think. Sure, Tiger Woods flies around in a private jet, and a few other guys do. But it's a lot of time in airports, hotels, and rental cars, lugging bags all over the place. That part of it is kind of tiring. But for the most part, it's great. I wouldn't want to do anything else."
Points is a loyal Illini. He keeps track of the UI golf team and its head coach, a former Tour professional himself.
"I kind of know everybody (on UI team). I talk to Mike Small frequently. He checks in with me, and I check in with him. Next year at the John Deere Classic, we're gonna organize this big Illinois Day where the GIA is gonna get involved. We'll have a tent, and I'm gonna have a local kid caddy for me during the tournament. It was auctioned off."
He also follows the other Illini sports closely.
"I love Illinois athletics, and I'm a huge basketball fan and football fan. I watch anything I can. In Orlando, we've got the Big 10 Network on a cable package, so I get to watch a lot of stuff. One of my good friends Tom DiSanto, who's also an alumni, has a condo down there. So whenever I come back I ask him to come along. I like coming back."
Former Illini golf star Steve Stricker is now #2 in the world. He and Points touch bases frequently.
"I see him every week. We don't get to play that much together. Steve's got his own routine, and he knows all the courses. But we always talk in the locker room and catch up."
Points is just entering the age where his golf game can blossom. He can have many excellent years ahead of him, and he will be keeping the UI close to his heart throughout his career.