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The drive to succeed by Rufus Coleman
Spring 2002      

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Writer's note: Tiger tale

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Edwards wins the ACC

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Burning Issues

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Building a P.R.I.N.T.
Layer by Layer

The Drive to Succeed

photo of Joel Edwards His years on the PGA tour paid off when Joel Edwards won the 2001 Air Canada Championship on Labor Day weekend.

Is Joel Edwards ordinary?


The former UNT student looks ordinary enough, from his comfortable navy blue slacks to his short-sleeved knit shirts.

And his wish to work a little less and see more of his wife and son is as ordinary as it gets.

But the extraordinary thing about Edwards is his Labor Day weekend victory at the 2001 Professional Golf Association’s Air Canada Championship in Surrey, British Columbia.

Unless they’re golf fans, most people can name only Tiger Woods and a handful of other professional golfers. Most don’t know about the couple of hundred others who happen to be ordinary guys like Edwards.

“This is my regular job,” Edwards says. “When I won the prize money for the Canada tournament, it was about $610,000.

“The way I see it, that’s about a $50,000-a-year salary for 11 years of work in the PGA.”


The ‘want-to’

But more than that, Edwards’ victory is a sound reminder that ordinary guys are driven by perseverance and desire.

“My dad used to call it ‘want-to,’” says Edwards, who grew up in El Paso. “He always said, ‘Look out for people with a lot of “want-to,” because desire is a powerful thing.’”

Edwards’ “want-to” kept him going after leaving college early to try to join the tour. That task took seven years, and he waited 11 more to see his first tournament victory at age 40. Until 2001, his best career finish was a tie for second at the 1992 B.C. Open in Endicott, N.Y.

He’ll be the first to say his recent success was hard earned.

“When I won in Canada, all doubts were washed away,” he recalls. “But there were a lot of times over the years when I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this? There has to be a better way to make a living.’”

For Edwards, the last 18 years have meant working at country clubs to support his family while trying to make his dream a reality. He’s spent weeks at a time away from his wife, Rhonda, and his 4-year-old son, Tanner, playing at small tournaments in places as far away as South Africa.

And these are in addition to the hours and miles spent training for each season.

“This definitely didn’t happen overnight or come easily,” he admits. “But winning a tournament was my dream. And there’s just something in me that has to play the game.”

Every time the doubts came or he examined the number of lost tournaments, Edwards asked himself, “What if I win?” The idea of beating the best golfers in the world is a powerful one for him.

“Was it worth the years of hard work, the time away from my family and the strain, the sacrifice? Definitely,” he says. “And I’d do it again.”


The Mean Green

Edwards says the irony is that, as a teen-ager, he hated golf.

“I wanted to be a baseball player, but my dad kept insisting that I give golf a try,” says Edwards, who often served as his dad’s caddy. “And then one day it just clicked.”

The game came naturally and he gained recognition for his performance on his high school golf team.

“The next thing I knew I got a scholarship to play golf at North Texas,” he says.

The person who brought Edwards to North Texas in 1979 was former UNT defensive line coach Herb Ferrill. Ferrill, whom UNT sports legend “Mean” Joe Greene (’69) named as a huge influence as he accepted his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had the same powerful effect on Edwards as the UNT golf coach.

“When I met him, I felt like I had known him my whole life,” Edwards says of Ferrill, who died of cancer several years ago. “He was a great coach, and kids were coming from as far away as Hawaii to play golf with him — because of him I’ll always be proud to call North Texas my home.”

Coaches have always been Edwards’ heroes, but Ferrill holds a unique place in his heart.

“He never tried to tell me anything that wasn’t true,” Edwards says. “He wasn’t this great motivational coach filling your head with a lot of nonsense. He just told you what needed to be done and expected your best. He was straightforward and honest.”

And that same honesty and strength has been in every golf stroke Edwards makes.

He knows what it takes to win, and he is ready for the challenge.

“I don’t want to go another 11 years before my next victory,” Edwards says. “But if that’s what it takes, so be it. It’s like a lot of pro athletes who just can’t leave their game — golf is a passion that never seems to go away.”



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