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Rubenstein: Following young players on mini-tours

Jupiter, Fla. – The Abacoa Golf Club advertises itself as "public golf at its finest," and the course is indeed superb. I've played it often, but on Wednesday I had another purpose in stopping by. I wanted to catch the final round of the 36-hole Tour's last regular tournament of the season–the Tour Championship.

I was particularly interested in following Torontonians Peter Laws and Ben Silverman, who live in the area, while knowing I'd learn more about other players as well. Laws, 30, was a standout amateur. Silverman, 25, has been tearing up the Golfslinger Tour – also called the Minor League Golf Tour. Each had shot four-under par 68 in the opening round. They were two shots behind leader Jon Curran.

I first caught up with Silverman. He was playing in the second-to-last group and birdied the last two holes to shoot 69 and finish at seven-under-par 137, good for $4,500. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt across the last green, but he knew it wasn't enough to win. Brooks Koepka, 22, and a first-year pro who played in the U.S. Open last June, had finished ahead of him at eight-under after a final-round 66 to win the first prize of $10,000.

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Curran, a 25-year-old who lives in nearby Tequesta, shot 72 to tie for third at six-under. Laws shot 71 to finish another shot back. Curran, by the way, won his first pro tournament only last month when he took a one-day Golfslinger event at the West Palm Beach Golf Club. He prevailed in a seven-man playoff.

It's never less than fascinating to watch tour golfers at all levels, but there's something even more intense about following young players on mini-tours trying to make their way forward. The same feeling applies while watching players who have had a taste of the big time.

Brad Adamonis, 40 next month, is in the latter group. He was playing with Curran and Laws in the last threesome, having opened with a 67. But the obviously talented player faltered in the last round. Here's a player who has won on the (formerly Nationwide) Tour. Here's a player who played full-time on the 2008 PGA Tour, when he finished 124th on the money list to win $862,413. He was in a three-way playoff that year for the John Deere Classic. Kenny Perry won. Adamonis retained his exempt status for the 2009 PGA Tour but finished 163rd on the money list to lose that status. He played the Tour this year, where he finished 110th on the money list.

Now he was at Abacoa, and his swing looked solid. As Rob Young, one of the principals at Abacoa, said, "There's not much of a difference between the swings of these guys and the guys on the PGA Tour." He's right, at least when it comes to the better players here. What's the difference? That's a difficult question to answer and always worth exploring.

Anyway, the Golfslinger Tour's last of four so-called "majors," each over 36 holes and for that first prize of $10,000, was where I wanted to be on a perfect South Florida day–warm, even hot, with little or no wind. As I drove in via the road that runs alongside the par-four 18th hole, I saw players in the fairway checking their rangefinders–not allowed on the PGA Tour during tournament rounds, but necessary on Golfslinger because few if any players use caddies. They're in carts, another difference.

There are many differences. Many players wear shorts, not allowed on the PGA Tour. There were no scoreboards on the course. But live scoring is provided for players. Silverman was checking his smartphone as he played, and knew that he needed to hole out on the 18th hole to tie Koepka. He pulled his approach, but he did make that monster birdie putt across the green.

After the tournament ended, a few more differences between this tour and the bigger tours became apparent. A notice on the scoring table, beside the trophy, informed players of a "Lunch special for Golfslinger Tour, 10 per cent off lunch." No free lunch here.

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Players waited around on the patio. I wondered why. Players on the PGA Tour get their winnings by direct deposit into their accounts. Silverman explained.

"This is probably the only tour where they print the cheques on the spot and hand them out," he said, while making notes of his final-round stats. "They run this tour really well."

I didn't wait to see the cheques handed out, and left Abacoa. It was apparent that these tour players worked hard, very hard. Laws, who looked so fit and strong it appeared he could step into a boxing ring, told me that he works out all the time. His swing was dynamic. All the swings are dynamic out there. The golfslingers want to get ahead. On this day, some did, and, surely, all learned something important about where they are in their games.

Meanwhile, the traditional final event of the Golfslinger schedule goes Thursday, at the par-three Jupiter Dunes Golf Club a five-iron from the ocean. Silverman and Adamonis will be partners in the 27-hole tournament. The golf doesn't stop in these parts. I think I'll drop by to watch. After all, as golf at the highest levels, or any level, is about more than driving the ball 300 yards or more.

Short game matters. Putting matters. The focus will be on these departments at Jupiter Dunes. Why not watch more golf? Why not check out the enjoyable and competitive Tour once again?

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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