Gossett Takes Winding Path to Pinehurst

David Gossett won the 1999 U.S. Amateur and made a splash at the beginning of his professional career, but has had a difficult 14-year climb back to the U.S. Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

David Gossett won the 1999 U.S. Amateur and made a splash at the beginning of his professional career, but has had a difficult 14-year climb back to the U.S. Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Monday, June 9, 2014

By Stuart Hall

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – The conversation between two men sitting in the practice-range bleachers late Monday morning at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 tells part of this story.

“I saw Bubba Watson and his entourage,” the first man said.

“Who was he playing with?” asked the other.

“Aaron Baddeley and some other guy,” answered the first man.

That “other guy” was 35-year-old David Gossett.

Does the name sound familiar? Gossett won the 1999 U.S. Amateur Championship and competed for the USA Walker Cup Team that same year. He was touted as one of the stars of Tiger Woods’ “Hello World” era, an undoubtedly bright future ahead of him.

If the name Gossett does not ring a bell, well, nearly a dozen years have passed since Gossett seemed poised to become a household name. Plenty more young pups, most recently Jordan Spieth, a fellow University of Texas Longhorn, have filled that up-and-coming role.

Gossett made 72 PGA Tour starts from 2001-03, winning the John Deere Classic in 2001, recording seven top-10 finishes, making 44 cuts and earning $2.19 million. He climbed to No. 106 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Gossett was not satisfied. 

"I just wasn't hitting the ball consistently well enough to have a poor week and finish in the top 10 or 15,” he said. "Or not play my best and be in the top 15. There would be too many weeks I would make the cut, but I finished 30th to 60th, and I didn't like that. And I was contending three or four times a year, but didn't win. 

"I just want to get better. I want to be more consistent. I wanted to be in the hunt more often and have a chance to win golf tournaments.”

Gossett’s career started to head south in 2004. He missed 23 of 35 cuts, prompting Sports Illustrated to run this late-season headline: “Whatever happened to David Gossett?”

He has made only 16 starts on the PGA Tour since. He dropped to the Web.com Tour, with mostly the same results – 46 starts from 2005-2013, just seven made cuts. 

“Sometimes it can look like the bottom fell out, but usually it is more of a gradual thing,” said Baddeley, 33, who has known his Monday practice-round partner since their amateur days. "It could be you start with some bad information, then you start playing poorly and then you lose some confidence. Then you make changes, that doesn’t work, you lose some more confidence and the next thing you know you’ve lost your way.”

Today, Gossett is tied for No. 1557 in the OWGR, the lowest possible ranking, and is mostly scratching out four-figure paychecks on the Adams Golf Tour. Married with three children, he jokes that David Gossett and Co. is his sponsor, and earlier career winnings are helping fund these lean times.

"Never got to a point where I chose not to play or was going to quit, never took any job interviews or anything,” said Gossett, who lives in Bee Cave, Texas, outside of Austin. "Certainly, there were times of disappointment and question marks. But I never really went there long. 

"I'm more wired like ‘OK, what are we going to do next?' And when you get punched, how are you going to handle that, rather than just dwelling on that.”

Baddeley can empathize to a degree. 

Baddeley was a standout amateur and won the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit in 2000-01 before coming to the United States. He earned his PGA Tour card in 2003 and had up-and-down results before breaking through with a win at the 2006 Verizon Heritage. He has won twice since.

"This game can drive you insane, especially when you work hard and you’re not seeing the results,” Baddeley said. “Obviously, he continues to work hard to get back to the [PGA] Tour.”

The optimist in Gossett believes that qualifying for this U.S. Open signifies an upward trend. 

Gossett shot 70 in the Austin, Texas, local qualifier, and lost in a playoff for the final two spots. But he defeated touted amateur Beau Hossler in a playoff to become the qualifier’s first alternate. 

On May 30, Gossett was informed that a spot had opened at the Memphis, Tenn., sectional qualifier on June 2. Gossett shot rounds of 66-69 to tie for third and earn one of the 13 available U.S. Open spots. He joined a group of qualifiers that included noted PGA Tour players J.B. Holmes, Joe Ogilvie, David Toms and Jeff Maggert. 

“I'm encouraged when I see 66, 69, and against a lot of good qualifiers in Memphis,” Gossett said.

Under instructor Chuck Cook’s tutelage the past five years, Gossett is encouraged by the mechanics. Now the confidence is in need of cajoling.

“I could have quit or can keep getting after it,” Gossett said. “I don’t want to quit, so I keep getting after it.”

Even if fewer people recognize him today.  

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.

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