By Peter Robinson Created: June 1, 2018
ON A FEW OCCASIONS DURING HIS GOLF JOURNEY throughout Latin America, Ally Tidcombe has wondered where exactly he was headed. “We can be in an Uber, or looking at the GPS,” said the 25-year-old of his time playing PGA Tour Latinoamerica, “and it looks like there couldn’t possibly be a golf course anywhere around and then all of a sudden…”
Tidcombe didn’t need to finish the sentence because his point was clear: The destination isn’t always in sight or apparent but he’s getting there nonetheless.
His journey through countries such as Argentina, Guatemala and Nicaragua over the past two golf seasons tells only part of the story of the sophomore pro. Born in England, Tidcombe came to Canada in his early teens, settling with his family in Nova Scotia because his parents — mom Helen, who now works at Acadia University, and dad Wayne, a salesman — saw the country as providing a better opportunity for their two boys. They became citizens four years ago, with Ally’s golf journey taking him from the Annapolis Valley to the University of British Columbia, to a small school in Kentucky, to the College of Coastal Georgia near the popular tour-pro settlement of St. Simons Island, Ga. — where he’s been based since graduating with a business degree — to various outposts in Latin America.
Those are some Gary Player-like air miles.
When he took the time to chat recently, Tidcombe was shoehorning the conversation in between a practice session at home and packing ahead of a 3 a.m. wake-up call to catch a flight to Jamaica. He even managed to squeeze in a Stanley Cup playoff game featuring Sidney Crosby, whose ascension into NHL royalty coincided roughly with Tidcombe’s arrival in Nova Scotia.
“It’s been quite incredible to watch him since moving to Canada,” said Tidcombe.
Speaking of incredible, Tidcombe simply being able to swing a club is quite a feat after what he endured as a toddler, when a severe accident while playing in the backyard of the family home in England led to pins being inserted into his left elbow. They’re still there.
“We were told he’d never have 100 per cent use of that elbow,” said Helen Tidcombe.
Young Ally wasn’t phased. He first had designs on playing for Manchester United, the soccer team he still supports, and spent several years playing out of the academy program of Boston United, a lowerlevel professional team back in England. But soon after the permanent transatlantic move, Tidcombe became fixated on another game played on grass.
“Everyone wanted to be David Beckham and so did I, but then I (became) attracted to the individual nature of golf,” he said.
Tidcombe played a bit in England but really dove into the sport once he turned up at Ken-Wo GC in New Minas, not far from where he lived in Wolfville. (The family now lives in Bedford.)
“The NSGA (Nova Scotia Golf Association) really helped and there were hundreds of kids at Ken-Wo, a lot of good people there to be around,” Tidcombe explained.
Though the Atlantic provinces don’t have the competitive numbers of Central Canada and B.C., Tidcombe showed enough promise to end up at UBC, which features one of the best collegiate teams in Canada, before eventually landing at Coastal Georgia, an NAIA school, where he won a handful of college titles and helped the squad to the national championship. He also won the 2014 Nova Scotia Amateur championship.
Tidcombe remained an amateur for two more years but turned professional in 2016 and won his Latinoamerica card soon after. He fell short of restamping it in his rookie season but managed to get through qualifying to return to action this year. During that span he also tried his luck in Europe, progressing through a first-stage qualifier in England, but falling one shot outside the cut-off in second stage.
He’s had his moments, including a T3 at an unofficial Latinoamerica event and a T14 during the regular season, but Tidcombe is the first to admit he’s not satisfied with his performance so far. Citing a lack of experience and some struggles with the putter, he’s still awaiting a breakthrough. That said, he’s not discouraged.
“You rarely achieve success in golf overnight,” he said. “Sometimes I (lack) experience to really understand the conditions, when to know that it’s a green-light day, or that with wind or tight pins that you have to be cautious.“I also haven’t putted as well as I had hoped. I’ve only had a couple good putting days and it can be difficult sometimes to get used to the greens — they can vary from course to course.”
Played across a vast region where interest in golf can range from passionate — large swathes of Argentina and the expat communities of Sao Paulo and Central America — to virtually nonexistent, PGA Tour Latinoamerica is an interesting loop on which to cut your teeth. Tidcombe learned that quickly the first time he heard monkeys scurrying through the jungle terrain through which some courses wind.
But the circuit is no slouch competitively. At around the same time Tidcombe was watching Crosby on television, he was also peering in on a Web.com Tour event won by Mexican veteran José de Jesús Rodríquez, who has played throughout Latin America over the past 10 years.
“I think the quality of golf on the tour is very underrated,” Tidcombe said.
Helen, a pleasant voice that, unlike her two sons, still hangs firmly onto her English accent, has watched her son pursue his passion for most of the past decade. Like any parent, she is both content and a little anxious to watch her youngest son chase his far-flung dream.
PGA TOUR LATINOAMERICA
Tidcombe is still getting used to the peculiarities of some far-flung places on PGA Tour Latinioamerica.
“It’s not for the faint hearted,” she said of his quest. “As a parent, you watch your children work so hard at what they believe in, you see how much they want to achieve (their goals).”
At the time of writing Ally’s older brother, Matthew, was about to take a short break from his job as a digital content manager for the American Hockey League’s Belleville Senators to loop for Ally in Costa Rica. Matthew is a non-golfer, but the brothers spent many years facing off in soccer — Ally a striker and Matthew in goal. It was on the pitch where they tuned their competitive instincts, sometimes against one another, but it’s fair to say they won’t get into a battle of wills over club selection like what has happened to Ally a few times in his season-plus on tour.
“I can get by in Spanish,” said Ally, “but I’m not conversational. I had my caddie walk ahead with my bag because he wanted me to use three-wood and I’m, ‘Ahem, no, I think I’m going to use driver.’ There have been a few interesting moments like that.”
Tidcombe is unsure at this stage when he’ll next get to play back home in Canada. He plans on filling gaps on the Latinoamerica schedule this summer by doing Monday qualifying on both the Web.com and PGA tours. At present, there are no plans to attempt to qualify for the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, but much like navigating his way through Latin America, Tidcombe is still trying to figure out how to reach pro golf’s ultimate destination.
One thing’s for sure though: His family’s decision to move to Canada a decade ago provided him with the perfect starting point.
“Both our boys,” relayed Helen, “have told us a number of times how much they appreciate the opportunity that Canada has afforded them.”
This article appears in the 2018 May-June Issue of SCOREGolf Magazine.