Allred hopeful for resurgence, return to PGA Tour

Jason Allred has been in golf exile, out of competition longer than at any time since high school. It's given him plenty of time to reflect.

He's thought about his swing.

He's thought about his mental approach.

He's thought about forming Team Allred, if you will, a support group to cover golf things that, well, need support.

He's thought about Monday qualifiers, sponsor exemptions, revisiting goals, plotting this, planning that.

The one thing he hasn't thought about, however, is quitting.

He's a golfer, and he'll stay a golfer.

"For whatever reason, I never really spent time thinking about those questions, about whether I'd continue to play," says the Ashland native, who was on the PGA Tour last season but didn't retain his card. "I went through a tough year, golf-wise, but I still believe I can do it out here. If I felt like I've gotten as good as I'm going to get and it's still not working out, I think I'd be honest with myself and do what's best to take care of my family.

"But that's not where I am. I really believe my best golf is ahead of me. That's why I didn't entertain those questions."

Allred, 29, makes his season debut today in the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta, Ga. He received a sponsor exemption for the Nationwide Tour event at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club.

In the 2007 tournament there, he shot 3 under par and tied for sixth place.

One reason he's done well there, perhaps, is that he's long hitter, and the course is a monstrous 7,781 yards.

Allred finished 220th on the PGA money list last year, making $100,596. He was 20 spots out of retaining partial Nationwide status.

As such, the only way he can initially get into events on either tour this year is to Monday qualify or through sponsor exemptions, of which up to six more are available to him. Once in, he can play his way to regular status.

Adam Wallace of the PGA Tour media relations staff has seen Nationwide players make it big in a hurry and others who have toiled for years on the PGA feeder tour.

"It's really a different grind doing it that way as opposed to just getting into an event," he says of Monday qualifying. "There's really no rhyme or reason. For some guys, it's just a matter of time before it clicks."

He cited the recent cases of Nick Flanagan and Jeff Klauk. Flanagan won three Nationwide events in his second year and earned promotion to the PGA, where he played full time last year. Klauk was on the Nationwide for eight years before advancing, and this year he's made nearly $600,000 in 11 PGA events.

Similarly, Allred is in it for the long haul.

Among his goals for this year are to focus less on results, something he believes restricted his free-swinging mentality the past couple seasons, and to build a team that will help him with mechanics, psyche and fitness.

"I recognize that most of the great players have great teams around them," says Allred. "That would be a huge asset so I'm not relying on myself all the time."

The recent down time allowed him to explore some of those options.

After failing to retain his PGA card, Allred again tried the tour qualifying school, which is how he got to the big show in 2005 and 2008.

When that didn't pan out last fall, he stayed home in Scottsdale, Ariz., worked on his game, plotted a course for 2009 and, most importantly, became a father for the first time when daughter Annie Claire was born in mid-December.

If he'd had his way a few months ago, he'd still be on the PGA Tour. He's since gained a different perspective.

"In a lot of ways, I feel like I've been given this year, and I don't think it was an accident," says Allred. "It starts with my Christian faith. I feel like the Lord has given me this year to, one, slow down and enjoy my family. To get to be a dad and to get to see Kimberly be a mom has just been great."

When he could, Allred worked on his game.

Regular PGA player Aaron Baddeley is a Scottsdale resident and good friend of Allred's. He also is the poster boy for the stack-and-tilt swing revolutionized by Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett.

Allred met with the teachers when they were in Phoenix for the FDR Open and experimented with the technique.

He's not a true stack-and-tilter — for most of the body weight stack over the front leg and stays there through the swing — but he did file away some of its principles.

"Some of the elements are very fundamental, and it helped me," says Allred.

But it also went against his grain.

"When I'm playing well, my biggest asset is my creativity," says Allred. "I feel like the full-blown stack-and-tilt gets in the way of that. It takes away some of the freedom in the swing. Even though I'll hit some a little crooked, I like to feel like myself out there and still feel athletic."

Through the first couple months of the season, Allred elected to stay home and practice rather than immediately begin Monday qualifying. The Nationwide plays several events abroad at the beginning of the season.

He can also Monday qualify for PGA events, but it's "more doable," says Allred, to improve his status on the Nationwide. On that tour, the top 25 placers each week earn their way into the next event. On the PGA, it would take a top-10 placing to do that, and it would be against much better competition.

"Obviously," he says, "I hope I don't have to Monday qualify for very long. It's realistic to have a hot month or two and play your way back on."

When the Nationwide stopped in San Francisco early this month, Allred tried to qualify. He made it into an eight-way playoff that would yield three spots, but a missed 8-foot putt foiled him.

He attempted the putt the following Tuesday morning because it got dark before the playoff could be completed.

"I hit one putt and went home," Allred chuckles. "That was the quickest round of golf I've ever played."

But he wasn't disillusioned. The night before, part of him "wanted to go out to the practice green and hit 100 8-footers."

"That's a perfect example of the last couple of years," he says. "I would have tried so hard to do so well. I may have made it or missed it, but I wouldn't have given myself a free and confident putt. I did miss it, but I didn't feel like I tried any harder. It was just like an 8-footer if I was out playing with my buddies. It didn't go in, but I felt good that I hit it that way."

He wants to take that relaxed nature to the course today and beyond.

Certainly, Allred wants to play well and win, but he also wants to enjoy the process of simply getting the ball in the hole.

"In a lot of respects," says Allred, "I'll learn a lot about where my game is this week. With that said, I feel really good about it. I've been practicing and training a lot at home. I've been playing well, and I have every reason to believe it'll be no different this week."

Should it happen, he'll have something else to reflect upon.

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