Craig Bowden is what sportswriters refer to as a journeyman. He's spent the last decade shuttling between the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour, pro golf's version of Triple-A ball. It's easy to forget that this puts him in the sport's top one-hundredth of one percent. Bowden finished fourth on the Nationwide money list in 2006, with $334,671, to play his way back into the sport's highest echelon, with the goal of establishing himself as a familiar name. This straight-hitting veteran is a straight shooter, too, as TheStreet.com found out in this interview. TheStreet.com: How much difference is there between a Nationwide Tour pro and a PGA Tour pro?Bowden: The top 30 on the PGA Tour money list are pretty darn good. We haven't had a whole lot of guys from the Nationwide go out on the PGA Tour and make the top 30. But this year there were 10-12 Nationwide graduates who kept their PGA Tour card, so it's very competitive on the Nationwide. There are guys capable of winning on the PGA Tour, but none of us are gonna, say, win the money title. That ain't gonna happen. Is there anything you'll miss about the Nationwide Tour? Every Nationwide Tour pro who makes the big tour answers that question the same way: the camaraderie, the fellowship, the closeness, the family-ness. You don't have that on the regular Tour as much. Why? Are the stakes too high? You get some egos on the regular Tour. Guys get a lot of money in their bank account and they feel they're a bit of a different person than what they were before on other tours. It's sad, but it happens. Did you treat yourself to anything special after you clinched your PGA Tour card for 2007? A new motor home -- that was a pretty big ticket. If you consider spending $375,000 on that treating yourself to something, then I'd say yes. It's how my family and I will get around week to week. It's a Newmar Mountain Aire, and we're really excited about it.
Do you have a financial planner? Who handles your money? We have a financial planner in Philadelphia. I sought him out -- we had mutual friends -- and I'm very pleased with what he's done. He provides a lot of ideas about money management. We try to stay as liquid as possible. We're mostly in mutual funds, so we can get to them. I have a SEP-IRA, too. I also keep quite a bit in money-market accounts -- at almost 5% guaranteed, it's hard not to. I'm in the gallery at a PGA Tour event -- why should I watch Craig Bowden instead of one of the big names? Because I'm not a robot. The PGA Tour has groomed players to be one-dimensional -- not to have any excitement to them or to show any personality. They don't advocate us doing those things. But I do. If you see me make a bogey, I'm gonna be mad. If you see me make a birdie, I'm gonna be excited. That's just the way I am. And I'm gonna show somebody who's not 6-foot-3 and able to hit it 310 yards on the fly that someone who's 160 pounds and hits it 275 yards right down the middle can compete. There are lots of people who'd love to hit it as straight as I do, including the best player in the world, Tiger Woods. You're also known to hit some pretty cool shots -- high-risk flop shots and bunker shots with often unusual techniques. I'm very creative on the course, with both my shots and my tactics. I'm not just a one-dimensional player with a technically perfect swing. It gives the fans a different perspective to see a little guy like me be successful without hitting it miles. That's the beauty of the game, that there are lots of ways to get it done. You've played in countless pro-ams. What are amateurs' three biggest problems? The first thing is that they have a handicap they can't play to: a vanity handicap. From a playing aspect, not many of them are flexible enough, so they try to hit the ball with their arms and shoulders as opposed to using their body. The other thing is ego. A lot of guys come out there and want to impress me. I'm just out there to enjoy the day and help them do the same.
But when they don't play to their handicap, they get upset and frustrated. The thing is, the rough is up, the greens are firm and fast; it's a lot tougher than the course setup they're used to. So everyone has to come back with an excuse as to why they weren't playing well when no one cares how they play, least of all me. I just want to entertain them, have fun with them and make sure that they have a good time. What are some of your favorite publicly-accessible courses you play on tour? One of my favorites is Brown Deer Park in Milwaukee. I love that course. Most of the TPC courses are open to the public, and I love the TPC at Sawgrass. Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., is one of the best golf courses ever designed. And of course Pebble Beach is accessible if you've got about $500 lying around. And they're not all 7,500 yards. To me, the best courses are the ones that require accuracy, precision and thinking. Are there misconceptions about tour life? Is it as glamorous as most people might think? Flying all night, getting in at 2 a.m. and playing an 8 a.m. pro-am -- the travel part of it can be really frustrating. The general public also doesn't understand that a golfer is only as good as his last tournament. My buddy Scott Rolen just signed an eight-year, $90 million contract -- I'd like to know that if I break my leg and can't play again that I'd be taken care of, but that's not how it is for golfers. Do people also understand the gulf in quality between a Tour pro and the scratch golfer club champion at their country club? Most people think their club champion could play on Tour. It's night and day, not even close. Never mind the difference in skill level. To be able to go out and play for your life, that's a big deal. To leave a $75,000-a-year job, pay $125,000 in expenses to pay your bills -- now you're $200,000 in the hole before you start. That's a lot of pressure. Then you've got your mortgage payments, your car, your kids. That's a big nut. Now go play. This will be your fifth full year on the PGA Tour -- why will you be successful this time around? I'm 38 years old. I've done a lot of good things in the last few years. I'm just ready to go out there and do the things I need to do. I'm not so starstruck anymore; I've been there, done that. I know that I can do it again, and do it better than I did before. Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.