Brian Slevin soon will take on a series of challenges designed to put him on the PGA Tour next year.
Slevin, 23, a St. Mary's High graduate, will be one of 1,000 pros to attend the American PGA Tournament Qualifying School this fall, a three-stage competition that will cut the field to 180 for the final showdown in December in Orlando, Fla.
The top 40 finishers will get their cards authorizing them to play where they want on the tour for a year. The other 140 will qualify for the Nike Tour, golf's Triple-A.
Congressional Country Club pro Kent Cayce says there's no doubt Slevin will make the PGA Tour, if not this year, then next. Casey has been Slevin's instructor since he was a St. Mary's senior, and continued to work with him when he was home from the University of Georgia.
"Brian's as fine a young golfer as I've seen around here," said Cayce, who in 12 years at Congressional has seen 78 golfers from this area get college scholarships. "He's as solid as anyone in the area, and as determined and tenacious."
Slevin began playing golf at the age of 10 on the Bay Hills course that borders the backyard of the family's home in Arnold.
"I had played team sports, but didn't like depending on other people," Slevin said. "I like the independence of golf. And it didn't hurt to see players on TV making big money."
Slevin won the Bay Hills junior championship in his first year, beating boys as old as 16, then sought stiffer competition the next five years in Washington and the Carolinas. At 15, he prospered in national junior tournaments, and the college recruiting letters began to roll in.
He chose Georgia over Clemson, South Carolina and Arizona in part because it offered a full scholarship, a rarity. Another lure was the chance to play Augusta National, site of the Masters, once a year. Slevin holds the Augusta course record by a collegian with a 66.
Georgia has sent 17 players to the PGA Tour, but Slevin was the first sophomore to be named All-Southeastern Conference as a sophomore and the third to be voted All-American. He set the Athens Country Club course record with a 9-under-par 63.
"Brian has one of the most simple, repetitive swings I've seen," said Milton Abell, Georgia's coach of 10 years. "He can really shoot low numbers. But it's going to take time and more experience for him to string four good rounds together."
Feeling stagnant and unchallenged, Slevin left Georgia last March, five credits short of a degree, and went on the Canadian Tour. He returned home early last month after winning $1,950 in ZTC three tournaments and with tendinitis in his left thumb. No one ever accused Slevin of not practicing enough.
"The thumb is fine," Slevin said. "It was a smart move, coming home."
He has resumed his demanding practice regimen in preparation for the qualifying school and is searching for sponsors of $1,000 to sustain him for a year on a tour.
"It's a hard sport to break into if you're not properly sponsored," Slevin said.
The way Casey looks at it, Slevin is as good now as a golfer he taught in the mid-1980s, Brad Fabel, was then. Fabel has been on the PGA Tour since 1986 -- one of the few of the 78 who got scholarships who subsequently did make the tour.
"Making the tour is a matter of preparation and opportunity, and Brian will be prepared," Cayce said.
"Everybody's so good out there, a player just needs a few breaks."
The odds are high -- 1,000 golfers battling for 40 spots -- but Cayce says it'll be sooner rather than later that Slevin earns his card.