BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
“I should obviously live in Florida or Arizona or Texas,” admits professional golfer Craig Bowden. Most of his competitors on the PGA Tour settle in such tropical or arid climates, but the Bedford native refuses to leave Bloomington. “All my family’s here, and it’s a really nice place to raise children,” he says, “even if it means I can’t always go out and work on my game.”
Despite the limitations imposed by Indiana’s seasons, Bowden, 42, has been playing on the pro circuit for more than 20 years. Though he ranks around 200th in terms of earnings, when it comes to hitting the ball where he wants off the tee, there’s almost no one better. Bowden ranks fifth on the tour in driving accuracy, above such marquee players as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and even the straight-hitting Jim Furyk.
“The part of my game that’s clearly good is my accuracy, along with my wedge game,” Bowden says, “but putting has always been my nemesis. When I get my putting going, I can beat anybody in the world.”
Such winning streaks, which have included three first-place finishes on the Nationwide Tour, have allowed him to stick with a sport that costs him an incredible $125,000 a year.
“The expenses really add up with airfare, food, hotels, equipment, rental cars, a locker, and a caddy,” he says. But at any given tournament, he can win tens of thousands of dollars. “If I have a great week, I can win over a million. And I don’t have a boss, I’m not punching a clock,” he says.
Although he describes his career as “living a dream,” Bowden says professional golf has its disadvantages. The tour circuit can take him from California to Arizona to Florida to Puerto Rico, all in the course of a month. Back when he was first married, he and his wife would travel to tournaments in a motor home. Now with two young daughters, he has to fly solo. “That’s the hardest part, juggling the lifestyle,” he says.
Still, Bowden views himself as “very, very lucky” to be doing what he loves for a living. Better yet, he says, the great thing about golf is that even if he’s had a string of disappointing finishes, “Next week I can change my life.”