If they dole out pins for years of service at the PGA Tour Qualifying School this fall, Jason Allred should be near the front of the line.
The resolute Ashland native continues to work hard on his game, finds plenty of tournaments to play in even though he doesn't have a tour to call home and remains on a collision course for what will be his 10th visit to the meat grinder that is Q School — as many as three phases that culminate in a six-day, pressure-packed, make-or-break-you finale.
There's no shortage of gifted players trying to get through, something Allred knows all too well.
Twice he's survived and earned his way to the PGA Tour, where he played in 2005 and 2008. In the two years between, he played on the Nationwide Tour.
Given his recent form, there's no reason to think Allred should end his pursuit to make it back to the show.
"At the end of last year and early this year, I've been playing as well as I ever have," said Allred, who returned to the Rogue Valley to vacation with his family in recent weeks. "More importantly, I'm enjoying playing as much as I ever have. It's a process to try and get better, and I feel fortunate that I can continue to pursue it."
He entered a couple of Monday qualifiers for Nationwide events early in the year and shot in 60s, only to barely miss making the tournaments.
He played in 10 events on the Gateway Pro Tour, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lives, and was in the top 15 seven times. He made $10,000 with a runner-up finish in one of the three-round events and pocketed more than $25,000 overall, which would have placed him in the top 15 if he was eligible.
Allred doesn't appear among Gateway money leaders because he's not a member, said Ryan Pray, director of the tour. Some players enter all or most of the 20 or so tournaments, so it behooves them to join.
"It's not where you want to be long term," said Allred, who, with his wife, Kim, has two young kids, 21/2-year-old Annie and 7-month-old Zane. "At the same time, you could play every week if you wanted to. You're not going to make a ton of money on those tours, but it's a way to stay competitively sharp. And if you play well, you can hopefully pay some bills."
He added with a chuckle, "We've got all these diapers to pay for."
Allred hasn't done too shabby as a pro golfer. He's made more than $640,000 in official PGA money since earning his first paycheck in 2004.
And opportunities remain.
This week, Allred is in the Colorado Open, one of a couple top-flight state opens he plans to enter. He was among the leaders through Friday's second round of the four-day tournament, which has 156 players and a purse of $125,000, of which $23,000 goes to the winner.
He'll go from there to a Nationwide qualifier Monday in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. Then he'll hit a few Nationwide qualifiers in the Midwest before heading back to the West Coast to do the same and try PGA tournaments in Las Vegas and northern California.
"It'd be great if one of these qualifiers went well and I played well," said Allred, "but that said, I've planned my schedule around being ready for Q School."
Allred believes his best golf is ahead.
"If I didn't think that, I'd like to think I wouldn't be doing it," he said. "I'm hopeful I wouldn't be too thick-headed to keep doing it if it wasn't good for my family or my career."
Although he'll put on clinics and participate in pro-ams, something he enjoys because it makes for a good day on the golf course with amateur players, he hasn't considered other ventures.
"A lot of guys in my position would probably try to start supplementing what they're doing with teaching and various things that are golf related," he said. "Since 2008, my last year on the PGA Tour, I've been fortunate to play well enough even on the mini tours to get by and keep doing what I'm doing."
As for Q School, Allred has applied to play the first round in Valdosta, Ga., at a course he's familiar with both through Q School and the Nationwide Tour.
"Every little bit helps," he said.
He's not certain where he'll apply for the second stage. The final stage is at PGA West in Palm Springs.
IT WAS INTERESTING that Jason Allred and Clay Walker were in the Rogue Valley at the same time, if only briefly.
Walker, the country singer, was the featured attraction at the Jackson County Fair Wednesday. Before he performed, he played a round at Centennial Golf Club. Not with Allred, mind you. Allred left that day for the Colorado Open.
They are linked, however, by the 2005 AT&T National Pro-Am, when they played in the same group for three days. Allred's amateur partner was Carson Daly. Walker's teammate was pro Scott Gutschewski.
At one point, Allred stuffed his tee shot on the par-3 15th at Spyglass Hill, prompting Walker to break into song:
"I'm not saying if I'm in love ...," he began to croon.
Allred beat him to the next verse:
"I didn't mean it if I was," Allred sang.
He caught the singer off guard and coerced laughter from the gallery, even if the verse wasn't spot on.
Back to the present, this was posted Thursday on Centennial's Facebook page:
"Clay Walker came out to play a round of golf yesterday before his performance at the Jackson County Fair. According to several people that went to the show, he gave a very positive plug for Centennial Golf Club. He mentioned to his audience how great of a course we have and that the greens were the best he has played on in years. Thank you, Clay Walker!!!"
It was followed by this post:
"PS. Clay does not only have a talent in music but a pretty darn good talent in the game of golf. Talking to him, after his round, he shot a 79 from the BLACK TEES!! Pretty good for not playing the course before."
In 2005, Walker played to a 9 handicap in the AT&T. A production manager who was filming the star said he'd played with Walker and advised against getting into a money game with the singer at that handicap.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org