Andrew Svoboda was living prize check to prize check four years ago. The opportunity to make a decent living while roaming from town to town was definitely within the realm of possibility, but life isn’t always fairways and greens.
The shortest distance between the two points was not a straight line.
Even when the former Larchmont resident earned full-time Nationwide Tour status in 2010 and began living the dream, it wasn’t anything but a fairy tale. It was a literal grind. Svoboda was fine inside the ropes, but had to deal with new logistical issues every week.
He was getting by even though success was fleeting.
“It’s been a hard road for Andrew,” said Old Oaks assistant professional Nick Maselli, a longtime Svoboda confidante and caddie. “There was always some kind of adversity, but now he’s got a secure job for the next 16-18 months. On the course, it’s still just golf. All of that outside stuff, Andrew had to learn that. How do I travel? Where do I stay? What do I eat? When do I work out? Where am I at with my budget? He’s stable now.”
Svoboda went into the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open this week fourth on the Nationwide Tour money list. The 32-year-old has landed in the top 10 four times already, including runner-up finishes in Columbia and California. The winnings to date total $173,242, which is virtually one good finish away from locking up PGA Tour status for next season.
Everything seems to be falling into place, but Svoboda has new aspirations. It’s no longer enough to have financial security.
“I came up with that one when I was on the Hooters Tour,” said a laughing Svoboda, who recently spent a week back in Westchester catching up with friends. “When you get up there and you see that you’re hitting the ball as well as the guys who are winning, you start wanting more.”
Svoboda is determined to walk away with more than just an invitation to play at the next level. An oversized cardboard check is within reach.
“I’m going to win, eventually,” he said.
A new level of confidence is apparent, so it’s a new level of maturity.
“I just think Andrew is a lot happier in what he’s doing,” said Frank Darby, his coach at St. John’s. “He’s finally seeing a positive outcome. He’s in a good place right now, surrounded by the right people. It’s been a struggle. Andrew has done everything he’s needed to do to succeed, including caddying.”
The latest breakout has roots in disappointment.
“I missed getting my PGA Tour card by two shots at Q school last fall,” he said with more than a little regret. “I was so (mad). That hurts a lot. I missed because of two little putts. Brutal. It made me work harder in the offseason.”
Svoboda made West Palm Beach, Fla., his home base, lost weight and worked out regularly. He played golf with friends and members from Old Oaks, which has embraced him with sponsorship and support.
“His confidence is through the roof and that’s 75 percent of the battle,” Maselli said. “When you believe you can do something, a lot of the time you can talk your body into doing it. A lack of confidence is what always held Andrew back in the past.”
Svoboda is a remarkable ball-striker and ranks fourth on the Nationwide Tour in greens in regulation. When the putter is on, he makes bushels of birdies, but really shines when the course setup is demanding.
That will come in handy when he graduates to the PGA Tour.
“It’s all about being comfortable, I think, and being calm,” Svoboda said. “I’m getting close — $180,000 got a card last year — but I want to lead the money list. I’m in great position, so we’ll see what happens.”