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A different kind of rookie

October 19, 2016

Of the 70 players who made the cut in the PGA Tour season opener, Nicholas Lindheim easily could have been mistaken for a college kid who Monday qualified. He had a carry bag. He was not wearing a cap with a logo. He didn't have an equipment deal. He didn't have an agent.

Lindheim, who turns 32 next month, is the oldest of the 25 rookies on the PGA Tour.

And there aren't many like him.

The California native made it to the big leagues without going to college, and without having much game in the first place.

''I played my sophomore year in high school, and I was terrible,'' he said. ''Being as competitive as I am, I just couldn't put it down. I knew I could do it. I wouldn't say I knew I could play on the PGA Tour, but to do it competitively.''

The competitive side of him, not to mention the athleticism, comes naturally. His dad was a swimmer, his mother ran track. His sister, Bryttani, played softball at Florida State. Lindheim was into skateboarding, soccer and baseball until he threw his arm out.

As for golf?

''Watching it on TV, I was like, 'How hard is it to put a ball in the hole?''' he said. ''I just had this fixation. My play is more unorthdox. I've been self-taught my whole life. I'm just really competitive. Just get the ball in the hole as fast as you can.''

Turns out it was plenty difficult, though not enough for him to stop trying.

He worked in the cart barn at Mission Viejo Country Club, then moved to Menifee Lakes Country Club in Murrieta, California, where he would play every day after work until he got better. He tried Q-school for the first time in 2011. He qualified for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014, made the cut and played with Jim Furyk in the final round (Lindheim closed with a 77 and tied for 56th, Furyk shot 67 and tied for 12th).

He finally got some status on the Tour, and Lindheim won on the Latin America circuit in 2014 and 2015.

And then he was ready to quit.

''I thought maybe at one point this year I wasn't good enough,'' Lindheim said. ''It was my daughter's third birthday. I was in Springfield, Illinois, and had just missed the cut by a shot. I missed an 8-footer on the last hole. I called my wife and said, 'This isn't fun.' I was missing out on life at home.''

His wife, Gracie, an attorney in Satellite Beach, Florida, told him to finish up the year and take stock.

Lindheim won the next week in Utah and was on his way to the big leagues.

''That's how crazy this game is,'' Lindheim said.

Others seem more impressed than Lindheim that he was still learning to play when his fellow rookies on tour were in the NCAAs, the U.S. Amateur or the Walker Cup.

''That's what my wife says,'' Lindheim said with a laugh. ''She says I don't realize the level I'm at. I just expect a lot out of myself.''

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