Published: Jan 18, 2012 02:46 AM
Modified: Jan 18, 2012 08:41 AM
Friends, family shaped Todd's path to Tour
Cary native had much support
Webb Simpson, one of the hottest pro golfers in the world last season, and Brendon Todd, among those who struggled most, have been linked for much of their lives.And as Todd played his first PGA Tour event last week, no one was rooting for him more than Simpson."I would love to see Brendon win this week," Simpson said of Todd's debut at the Sony Open in Honolulu. "Nothing would make me happier."As high school players a decade or so back, Broughton's Simpson and Green Hope's Todd routinely staged one-on-one duels in the biggest state and regional tournaments.Todd, about two weeks older, often had the edge.In the 4-A division, Todd won three NCHSAA state titles: 2000, 2002 and 2003. Simpson won in 2004 and another Broughton player, Rand Williams, won in 2001.When Todd picked Georgia and Simpson opted for Wake Forest, there was much speculation the two might one day win big on the PGA Tour.Simpson, of Charlotte, has done just that. Todd's career path has been more difficult. He slipped from the PGA Tour to the Nationwide Tour and almost out of the sport."There were some very, very low times," Todd said last Wednesday. "It never quite got to the point that I thought I'd give it up, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going wrong and how to fix it. Thankfully, I have a great wife (Rachel) and a great family support system."Not without a fightAfter missing 27 of 37 Nationwide Tour cuts in 2010 and '11, the old Todd suddenly broke through at the most important time of his career - the 2011 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament just over a month ago in La Quinta, Calif.In an event frequently cited by pros as the most grueling and pressurized in the world, Todd finished 17 under par over six rounds, won the tournament and earned the right to play the entire 2012 tour without weekly qualifying."My confidence finally came back," Todd said. "I'd been playing pretty well entering the Qualifying event. Once I got some momentum going, it felt great to play that way again - to play with confidence in your swing."It was Todd's fourth pro win. He won on the Nationwide Tour as a rookie in 2008, finishing with enough points to make the jump to the PGA Tour. He had one win on the Hooters Tour and another on the EGolf Tour in 2007.But almost from the start of 2009, it was such a struggle for Todd that he eventually sank to a world ranking of 980 and is still in the 800s. In 2010 on the Nationwide, he failed to make a cut in 10 starts."Once you lose confidence, you start questioning everything you're doing on the course," Todd said. "Pretty soon, you're trying to hang on from shot to shot, just hoping more than you're thinking about how to play the hole."Help from CharlotteThose who knew Todd best never lost hope.In Charlotte, Quail Hollow head pro Scott Davenport had worked with Todd early in his career and again during the slump."What I saw was the same solid player I'd always seen in Brendon," Davenport said. "I just advised him to start trusting what had worked for him all of his life. He's got all the talent you need, and he's just a fantastic person. You knew he would pull out of it."While Simpson was winning twice on the PGA Tour in 2011, he thought often of his old rival and friend."We've always been very close," Simpson said. "We competed against each other all the time back home, but we pulled for each other all the time, too. When he won the Q-School tournament, I was so happy I couldn't stand it."Reason for driveTodd, 26, was born in Pittsburgh but played most of his early golf at Prestonwood in Cary. His father, Martin, recalled that his other two sons, Tyler and Stewart, were single-handicap players who pushed Brendon."They were very competitive brothers even though they were close," said Martin Todd, a Belk employee who moved to Charlotte in 2003."Then Webb came along and he and Brendon pushed each other to get better. Watching those two play in Raleigh back then was a treat for us and Sam and Debbie Simpson (Webb's parents). But they were even better kids off the course than on it. There was never any ill will or resentment between them whatsoever."On the tours, Simpson has almost $9 million in winnings, including $369,000 in the recent Tournament of Champions event in Maui.Todd has won about $550,000, but there's no reason why he can't rise to Simpson's level."That's sort of my dream and goal," Todd said. "Watching Webb do all the great things he's done these past couple of years gave me a lot of hope. It kept my spirits up. I'd watch him on TV and tell me myself to hang in there and keep pushing. Webb told me the same thing."
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