A year ago, Kyle Stanley could still visit his hometown Starbucks coffee store in Gig Harbor, dressed in his favorite baggy Gonzaga men’s basketball sweats, and hardly get noticed.
And now he is making commercials with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the two premier golfers on the planet.
Not only did Stanley’s career on the PGA Tour quickly and decisively launch into the stratosphere, but his public image did also.
With it came lots of change:
• Stanley went from golf’s tragic hero in just his third tournament last season, blowing a big lead and losing the Farmers Insurance Open title in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker, to the feel-good comeback story a week later when he rallied in the final round to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open for his first PGA Tour victory.
• The Bellarmine Prep product played in every major tournament, including the Masters for the first time. He made the cut at the British Open, tying for 39th.
• In all, he made a career-best $2.35 million in earnings.
• Off the course, he uprooted from Bluffton, S.C. and headed west to Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lives now. He just joined a new golf club – Silverleaf Golf Club.
• And perhaps his biggest move came after the PGA Tour season concluded: Stanley left Titleist to sign a multiyear endorsement deal with Nike, which has the likes of Woods, McIlroy and Nick Watney in its stable of players.
On Tuesday, in preparation for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Stanley debuted his new look – an all-Nike golf bag and wrapped up in the company’s customary swoosh from head to toe.
“All the new equipment, I love it,” Stanley said. “I never thought about (a change) because I had been with Titleist so long … but we (me and Nike representatives) talked. And as players, we are all interested in getting better, and I feel like I can do that with this new stuff.”
Those who follow Stanley’s career closely clearly remember the approach shot he hit on the 72nd hole at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he landed his ball high up on the green. But because it had so much backspin on it, it squirted off the putting surface and rolled into a water hazard.
Maybe that is one of the shots Stanley had in mind when he glowingly talked about the new golf ball he will be playing in 2013 – the Nike 20XI-X.
“It still spins, but just not as much … because the cover is a little bit harder,” Stanley said. “I have always had a pretty steep attack angle, so when I got into the wind, I struggled a little bit (with the Titleist Pro VI). And with wedges, I have always had to play for spin.
“The new golf ball allows me to be more aggressive with full yardages.”
It was a tale of two seasons for Stanley in 2012: He was so hot the first two months, but endured a 12-tournament stretch where he missed the cut seven times, and his best finish was a tied-for-49th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
“It was good, not necessarily from a golf standpoint but from a learning standpoint,” Stanley said. “I played great early, but the rest of the year I played poorly. I really identified the things I needed to get better at it, and will work a lot harder this year.”
Hometown: Gig Harbor.
Residence: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Schools: Bellarmine Prep/Clemson University.
2012 season: Made 17 of 27 cuts, posted two top-10 finishes and totaled $2.35 million in season earnings. Won his first career PGA Tour event at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (15-under-par 269) in February.
Best finish in 2012 at a major: Tied for 39th at the British Open (5-over 285).
World ranking heading into this season: 76th.
Caddie: Dave Woosley.
Swing instructor: Mike Taylor.
Mental coach: Julie Elion.
Agent: Brad Buffoni.
In the bag: Nike Covert Red (8.5 degrees), Nike Covert Red 3-wood (15 degrees), Nike VR Pro Blades irons, Nike VR Pro wedges, Nike Method Prototype putter, Nike 20XI-X golf balls.
Endorsements: Nike golf, Omega watches, Transamerica.
Five to thrive in: Farmers Insurance Open, Jan. 24-27, Torrey Pines South and North Courses, La Jolla, Calif.; Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 21-24, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando, Fla.; The Players Championship, May 9-12, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; The Memorial, May 30-June 2, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com blogs.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles firstname.lastname@example.org