Vancouver Sun

Living the Dream

Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor will kick off 2015 on Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui, thanks to winning the Sanderson Farms Invitation­al in November.

- BRAD ZIEMER bziemer@vancouvers­

Nick Taylor still has to occasional­ly pinch himself to make sure this hasn’t all just been a wonderfull­y long dream.

Take just last week, for example, when he was watching TV at his Abbotsford home.

“I remember seeing a commercial about the Tournament of Champions about a week ago and it still feels weird that I am going to be playing in it,” Taylor says. “It’s really cool to be in it and I’m sure it won’t really hit me until I am there. It will be quite an experience.”

It will be an experience Taylor will share with his wife Andie, both of their parents and several other family members and friends. Team Taylor will be nearly as large as the 34-man field that will play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which begins Friday at Kapalua’s Plantation Course on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Although the new PGA Tour season officially began in October, the Maui event signals the start of a new year — and the tournament winners from the past year who qualify to play in it are spoiled rotten. The players are put up at the Ritz-Carlton at Kapalua and they and their families are treated like royalty. If it’s not paradise, it’s close. “Yeah, I have heard you get treated like kings, but that’s pretty much like any week,” says Taylor, who headed to Maui on Monday. “We are spoiled like crazy. I have heard it is awesome. It will be a different kind of experience.”

And a rewarding one, no matter how he plays. There’s a $5.7-million US purse up for grabs this week and no cut. The last-place finisher figures to make around $60,000 US, while the winner will take home $1.14 million US.

“It will be cool playing in a tournament that only has 34 players on a golf course that seems like it has some pretty incredible views,” Taylor says. “It’s going to be a pretty lowstress week. Obviously I want to play well, but I really don’t have many expectatio­ns. I am going to be rusty for sure, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make this year.”

Taylor qualified for the Maui event by winning the Sanderson Farms Championsh­ip in Mississipp­i in early November in what was just his fourth start as a PGA Tour regular. Since the five-event fall kickoff to the 2014-15 PGA Tour season concluded, Taylor has been decompress­ing from what was a whirlwind finish to his 2014 season on the Tour.

He went from fighting to retain his exempt status on that tour to earning his PGA Tour card in the Tour playoffs. He played the best golf of his life, much of it under highly stressful conditions. When he played his final PGA Tour event in mid-November in Mexico, Taylor was mentally exhausted.

“This last month I haven’t done a lot, but I needed some time to decompress,” he says. “It seemed like every week I was playing for something and there was a lot of stress. I was fried. I have never been that fried. … So many good things were happening, but I was still mentally fried.”

Taylor got married last May and he and Andie, also an Abbotsford native, put off their honeymoon until his golf was done for the year. In early December, they headed to Aruba for a 10-day honeymoon. They, of course, had much to celebrate.

“I actually booked it before Mississipp­i,” Taylor says. “We wanted to go somewhere where neither of us had gone before. We certainly had lots to celebrate and to get away, just us two with no one really bothering us, was special. It was so nice to just get away and not have to worry about anything.”

Taylor’s win not only earned him $720,000 US, but he now has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, which lasts through to the end of the 201617 season.

That is a luxury that Taylor knows he will enjoy, but he also realizes he can’t allow himself to be complacent. He is trying to set some new goals, including a couple of lofty ones.

“The (2016) Olympics is definitely circled on the calendar,”

The (2016) Olympics is definitely circled on the calendar.… A year ago, I never would have thought I’d have a chance to possibly be in contention for that. NICK TAYLOR PGA GOLFER

he says. “It would be quite an experience playing in something like that. A year ago, I never would have thought I’d have a chance to possibly be in contention for that. … The Presidents Cup is also a goal, although I would have to do a lot of work for that. But I saw what Graham (DeLaet) did and that would be quite an experience.”

Taylor’s more immediate goals are to get himself into contention to win again and to play his way into the seasonendi­ng FedEx Cup playoffs.

Taylor jokes that one of the toughest things about being an exempt player is setting a schedule. After dreaming about playing on the PGA Tour for so many years, he wants to play all the tournament­s.

“That was the hardest thing, for sure,” he says. “I am skipping Torrey Pines and that was difficult. But I can try some different tournament­s next year if I feel like it.”

Taylor will play the first four weeks — the Hyundai tourney, the Sony Open in Hawaii, the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs and the Waste Management Open in Phoenix — before taking the Torrey Pines event in San Diego off. Then he will play the AT&T Pebble Beach tourney and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles.

After that, Taylor says he will try to pace himself, playing no more than three weeks in a row to keep fresh.

For now, Taylor is just looking forward to shaking the rust off his swing and enjoying some aloha time in Maui, where he will undoubtedl­y reflect on what was a wonderful ending to 2014.

“I think anyone would take this to start the year,” he says. “2014 was a great year and it was such a crazy year. I am happy to move on and build on it.

“It will be a new experience all year playing all these new tournament­s and golf courses. I can’t wait to get started.”


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