Jim Souhan: A grin and a used Pacifica help qualifier get by

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 2007 - 10:50 PM

A round of 63 led to a tie for third place Sunday, a career highlight for Mitch Adams and a big boost for his wallet.

Sunday afternoon during the 3M Championship, a whoosh could be heard. A few tournament regulars nodded and said, "There goes Arnie." Arnold Palmer is known to buzz the clubhouse in his private plane on the way out of town.

Even after his strong showing Sunday, Mitch Adams has not quite reached the celebrity status of Palmer, and that's probably a good thing. Buzzing the clubhouse in a used Chrysler Pacifica would not have the same effect.

D.A. Weibring won the 3M on Sunday, beating Jay Haas with a birdie on the 18th hole. Third place offered the best stories, though. Minnesotan John Harris shot a 66 for his best finish at the 3M.

He finished tied with Adams, a former salesman who had to qualify for the tournament on Tuesday, switched putters on Wednesday and then showed all weekend that you can never count out a former North Carolina mid-am champ.

Well, let's be fair. Adams, a gangly, unassuming North Carolinian, also won the 2006 Tarheel Classic and finished fourth on the Sunbelt Tour's money list with $17,007 in 2006.

Adams made it to the Champions Tour by finishing 13th in the 2006 qualifying school. So was Sunday's finish a career highlight? "Yeah," he said with a soft drawl. "This has got to be it. Of course, my career has been since Jan. 1 on the Champions Tour, and I haven't had many highlights since then."

Unless you want to count stops at Dairy Queen. For a couple of decades, Adams, a former club pro, worked in the textile and steel businesses, at one point helping Izod design the fabric used in golf shirts.

Sunday, Adams walked a mile in Haas' pima cotton. He and Haas both shot 63s playing together, and only Haas' lucky-bounce eagle at the 15th kept Adams from a second-place check. As it is, Adams gets $115,500.

"I haven't had much money in my life," he said. "I've got a few bills to pay. I've been traveling all year and I've made less than $30,000, so I'm pretty much in the hole."

Adams must qualify for events, which means getting to tournament cities on Monday or Tuesday, trying to play his way in and then driving the used Pacifica he bought for road trips to the next site. It's a glamorous life if you like Red Roof Inns, Subway sandwiches, credit card debt and pressure.

On the 18th tee Sunday, Adams looked capable of winning. He was one stroke behind Haas, who was then in the lead. Adams crushed his drive and thought about hitting a 3-wood from 220 yards to make sure he cleared the water.

His caddie talked him into a 5-wood, and Adams clanged it off the grandstand. "It just exploded off the face," he said. "Adrenaline."

The ball bounced back past the hole, leaving him a makeable eagle putt. Adams missed but didn't mind, not after a life dreaming of playing someone like Haas down the stretch on TV.

"From '91 until now I worked for a company in the steel manufacturing business," Adams said. "Two years ago my wife said, 'Are you planning on playing golf or what? If you are, you need to go ahead and turn pro.' She pushed me out the door."

Adams started playing minitours, displaying powerful ball-striking and iffy putting. Sunday, he shot a 63 while missing a handful of makeable putts.

"It was one of those weeks when your hands just fit right on the club," he said.

Finishing third qualifies Adams for a couple of tournaments and knocks the North Carolina mid-am off the top of his résumé.

"Now I want to go get another 63," he said. "I went out today with the mindset that I was going to birdie every hole. And daggone if I didn't get half of 'em."

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