Each of the 30 players in the professional flight at the Lilac City Invitational probably has something in their golf odysseys that would make for an interesting tale.
There’s the standard mix of seasoned players, young guns and everything in between, all chasing a $5,000 first-place check at the tournament that wraps up Sunday at The Fairways.
After some counsel with tournament officials, I visited with two gentlemen who are no longer pursuing the PGA dream. They’ve played in a ton of tournaments at various levels, encountered real-life issues and experienced the highs and lows only golf can produce.
They enjoyed the ride and seem comfortable with their current place in the game.
It’s no surprise the paths of Wenatchee’s Kevin PomArleau and Tacoma’s Tony Robydek have crossed often. There were among hundreds, probably thousands, of competitors traveling the same roads, walking the same fairways trying to make it to the PGA Tour.
“I’ve been good buddies with him for 20 years or so,” Robydek said. “We won like 60 percent of the events on the Cascade Tour. We kind of feed off each other. We’ve always fed off each other.”
At the Tri-City Open last week, PomArleau took first place and Robydek tied for second after making two triple bogeys in the final round.
PomArleau played in three PGA events, the first at the 1999 Air Canada and two more in 2005. He shot a 65 in his first PGA round and an image was etched in his mind.
“I look up at the leaderboard at one point and I saw my name and then Peter Jacobsen’s name, Payne Stewart’s name, Mark Calcavecchia’s name,” PomArleau said.
“And then it’s the tour,” he said. “I go 65-70-73-75 and just get lapped.”
PomArleau left few stones unturned in attempting to become a tour regular. He estimated playing in 11 PGA qualifying schools, 100 Monday qualifiers and 300 professional events.
“I felt like I was playing as good as I could play and was on the brink of making it,” he said. “In 2005 I missed going to the Q school final stage by one shot. That took a little out of me.
“The end of summer in 2007 I had a little life change called divorce. What I can say 100 percent is if your brain isn’t into it, it doesn’t matter if the body is there. If your outside life is bad you’re not going to make it on tour, and guys prove that every year.”
PomArleau is the northwest rep for Black Clover, which sells apparel for golfers, athletes and sportsmen. He can play competitively in tournaments such as the Lilac and call on clients.
“It’s more just to get the juices going again,” PomArleau said. “Maybe I can keep my game together and in six years I’m turning 50, 2020 Champions Tour, so I have my vision on that.”
Robydek shares a similar vision. He used to be one of the young lions routinely belting 330-yard drives and chasing the PGA dream, “but I’m past that and onto the teaching part. And I’ve been pretty successful so far.”
Robydek, like PomArleau, has a collection of trophies from winning local, sectional and mini-tour events. He played in some Web.com Tour events, taking the lead in one with birdies on his first four holes. His PGA Tour bid ended in the final stage at Q school.
“I wouldn’t change any of those memories,” he said.
Robydek gave up the chase “about 7, 8 years ago. I had to make a decision between the kids and keeping it up, and obviously the kids won out easily. It wasn’t even a question.
“You know how life goes,” he said. “When you’re in your early 20s or late 20s you think the PGA Tour is the goal and you give it all you’ve got. Even if you’re getting close to it, you look at your kid make her first basket or watching your high school golf team play well and it just means a lot more.”
Robydek coached his daughter’s basketball team and Peninsula High’s girls golf team. He worked with Kyle Stanley for several years. Two of his students, Kristen Rue and Rachel Lewis, play at Washington State, and another, Alivia Brown, has signed with the Cougars.
“When Rachel won the 3A state championship, that was my happiest moment in golf,” he said. “She started out as a girl that couldn’t break 100.”
Robydek has essentially stayed away from tournament golf – save for an annual outing with his buddies – but he’s teeing it up in eight or nine events this year.
“I’ll never be the same as I used to be, I’m not going to lie,” said Robydek, who shot a 61 earlier this year. “If I get ready for the senior tour, maybe it’ll be halfway decent. Those young guys don’t realize how good they have it with the rotation and flexibility. They have it made.”