David Byrne has come a long way since winning Big Break Indian Wells last year.
Last week he found himself golfing alongside the world’s best, Luke Donald at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, thanks to an exemption into the event from his victory on the show.
Luckily for Byrne, he had the chance to play a practice round with Donald after mustering up the courage to ask him what his plans were Tuesday afternoon.
“I was probably more nervous teeing off with him on the first hole than on the first tee on Thursday,” said the 24-year old. “When I played with Luke, I didn’t miss a shot, I think we might have tied on the front nine.”
Playing with Donald gave Byrne the opportunity to see first-hand how great the world’s number one ranked player is. He picked up some valuable tips that will help in his journey back to the PGA Tour.
“He [Donald]works a lot on fundamentals, he said 80-90% of his time is dedicated to short game, like 125 yards and in,” said Byrne.
“He gave me advice on things he does in the gym, when he plays a practice round what he does, how he prepares, just a lot of little things, nuggets of information that would help a guy like me.”
Byrne, who grew up in Essex, Ont., said his play last week wasn’t up to the standards he’d hoped after rounds of 78 and 72 but the experience and opportunity was something he wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
“It was just more that my body was nervous my mind wasn’t, I was actually really comfortable out there,” he said. “Out there you get treated like a king.”
Throughout the week the former University of Detroit Mercy collegiate player had the opportunity to practice alongside the likes of Donald and K.J. Choi, a beneficial experience for himself and his coach and caddie, Luke LaFave from Peterborough, Ontario. It made him aware of why tour players have reached that level and that playing in PGA events such as this are crucial in his journey to join them.
Asked how his experience on Big Break helped him in New Orleans, Byrne was quick to point out the show is very different from a real PGA Tour tournament.
“Thursday and Friday there was never one moment that compared to being on Big Break, it wasn’t as intense …Big Break is one shot every five hours and you’re tight,” said Byrne.
“I knew what I was getting myself into [this week]I had 18 holes to play, so if I made a bad swing I could make up for it, which I didn’t do very well but I knew I could.”
Since winning the show, Byrne has made a lot of changes. He’s now stationed in Orlando and has done a major overhaul of his golf swing.
“Since I won big break my golf swing is 100-percent different, people don’t even recognize my golf swing anymore,” expressed the young pro. “I’ve changed everything, from grip, alignment, set-up, posture and swing plane, so right now it’s at a point where it’s pretty good.”
After shadowing PGA Tour players all week, Byrne realized how consistent their tempos are, and plans to implement that in to his own game for his debut season on the Canadian Tour.
“We noticed this week that every guy on tour, his tempo is perfect, they’re never off-balanced, they never hit a shot where it doesn’t look effortless, they don’t exude as much energy,” explained Byrne.
“So now we’re working on a lot of tempo stuff and staying on top of the golf ball to get the consistent compression and strike like Donald gets day in and day out.”
Byrne’s focus has now shifted to the U.S. Open qualifier in Detroit. If all goes according to plan throughout the season, he hopes to qualify or earn an exemption into the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in July.