A Life-Changing Flight: Patrick Newcomb And The Trip That Saved His Career

Patrick Newcomb was seated on a plane en route to Honduras at 5 a.m., one Sunday morning in March. It was a last-minute decision after withdrawing from an event in Guatemala due to constant wind delays – one he thought he would gain little from. Up until then, Newcomb’s 2017 Latinoamérica Tour had been a misadventure, coming off a missed cut and T42 with only one of those six rounds breaking 70.

“What are you doing out here?” Newcomb thought to himself.

His practice rounds were up to his standards, but when competitive play came, Newcomb fell into a slump. Now, here he was, traveling to yet another country after banking just $800 and change in official Latin America winnings combined over four events – all of which earned in one day. There was no guarantee he would even be playing in the Honduras Open, needing to earn a spot in the field via the Monday qualifier.

“It was starting to get no fun and be the same season I’ve had in the past,” Newcomb said in an exclusive interview. “I was about to do something else at the end of year if it had kept going like it was going.”

Newcomb snuck into the field, and shot 68 in the opening round. The next day, the 27-year-old found himself on the bubble with a round trending towards the mid-70s. But on the 36th hole of the Indura Beach and Golf Resort, Newcomb, in a bucket hat which has become his signature look, rolled in a 12-footer for birdie to make the cut on the number.

The next two rounds are ones he’ll never forget.

Newcomb fired a round of 61 to match his career-best score, moving him from the cut line to the solo leader just like that. On Sunday, he settled for a 69 and entered a playoff with Hank Lebioda for the title. The duo played the 18th twice, and on the second try, Newcomb sealed the victory with this epic eagle putt.

“My life changed drastically over the next five months just because of that (decision).”

For Newcomb, his obsession for golf came at the age of nine when he won his first golf tournament. That’s right, nine. The setting was the Metropolis Country Club which rests just north of the Illinois-Kentucky border, only 40 miles from Newcomb’s hometown of Benton, Kentucky. The family drove up I-24 not knowing their youngest son was about to become addicted to being on a golf course.

“I was excited and super competitive, but it was my first tournament so I was pretty nervous,” Newcomb said. “I ended up winning by a bunch and that hooked me.”

Patrick grew up following in the footsteps of his older brother Nick, eventually leading them to Murray State University. Nick shattered records left and right as a member of the Racers golf team – well, at least until Pat arrived a few years later. Among his accomplishments, Patrick was a two-time Ohio Valley Conference Golfer of the Year selection and as a junior in 2012, advanced to the USGA Amateur quarterfinals.

Murray is only the 20th largest city in the state, and that’s the way Newcomb likes it having lived in Benton which is home to less than 5,000 residents. He calls his time at Murray State the greatest four years of his life.

“Murray is whatever you make it,” he said. “It’s not a big city or anything, but if you want to make it a great time you can. Everybody was so good to me there. My coach was great, everyone in the athletic department was amazing and life was just good and easygoing. The only thing I was worried about was playing good golf, going to class and going out with friends. It was simplified. There wasn’t so much travel or grind like there is now. It was a blast and I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Early in his professional career, Newcomb played primarily in South Africa on the Sunshine Tour. It was quite the change of scenery, to say the least, while pursuing a life on his own, aside from Nick who would travel with him often. To keep things in perspective, Newcomb marked his golf ball with dollar signs – a reminder that each stroke from here on out means more or less money earned. (He now writes “Pops” on his ball for his dad as a good luck charm, along with his Twitter handle @ThreeWiggle99 which is a reference to Tin Cup.)

“At every level I played at, I had won, but as soon as you turn pro you become one of the best players to tee it up to like everyone else,” Newcomb said. “For me, I had to learn how to make even more birdies. My game was good enough probably my second year out of school to have the season I’ve had this year, but I would overthink things and work too hard.”

Since 2014, Newcomb has participated in two PGA Tour events, one on the Web.com Tour and two years in Latin America before joining Canada’s Mackenzie Tour last July. In his first start, Newcomb emerged as a contender with a sixth-place finish, and one month later, became the first golfer to win on both tours by capturing the Syncrude Oil Country Championship.

The victory instantly moved him to fifth in the Order of Merit standings with the top five gaining Web.com Tour status for 2018. In early September, the red-hot Newcomb won again, with his triumph at the Cape Breton Open proving to be the clincher to secure a Web card.

Six months ago, Newcomb seriously considered giving up the game of golf. But his game has since taken him to another level. Just this week, the Kentucky native was invited to play in the Portugal Masters hosted by the European Tour, and with greater success comes more opportunities to play in more events across the globe.

The flight to Honduras may have been his greatest decision this year, but maybe it was the conversation Newcomb had with his “Pops” at the beginning of the calendar which made that choice easier.

“I told my dad this was going to be my breakout year,” he said. “I told him everything we’ve been waiting for is going to come together and it’s going to be my year.”

He was right.