Ryan Thornberry of Ceres has been grinding on various golf mini-tours, the game's minor leagues, since 2007.
He hasn't given up. In fact, he's still swinging.
"I'm steadily getting better," Thornberry said last weekend. "If you get hot anytime during the year, you can gain status."
In golf-talk, gaining "status" means stepping higher up the game's demanding competition ladder. For every Rory McIlroy or Ricky Fowler upstarts making it big there are hundreds like Thornberry.
Raking in the frequent flyer miles. Teeing it up anywhere. Trying to shave those priceless one or two strokes per round.
The stage for Thornberry, 28, has changed slightly in recent years. He was a former veteran on the Canadian Tour until the PGA Tour assumed operation of the struggling circuit last November. Del Rio Country Club welcomed the former CanTour for two events over the previous decade.
The new tour, titled PGA Tour Canada, will hold its eight events between June and September. But Thornberry, the former NCAA Division II All-American at Cal State Stanislaus, already is busy.
He begins play this week in Mexico City for the first PGA Tour Latinoamerica tournament of the year. This marks the second year for Latinoamerica, as the PGA Tour enlarges its brand throughout the Americas.
Last year, Thornberry won nearly $14,000 at Latinoamerica tournaments, along with about $3,000 on the eGolf Tour. He looks forward to both the Latinoamerica and the PGA Tour Canada stops this year because there are important carrots to chase.
The top five finishers on each tour's order of merit will earn berths on the 2014 Web.com Tour, the so-called Triple A showcase, one step below the PGA Tour.
These new feeder systems offer players like Thornberry a better chance to succeed.
That said, he still needs a financial boost to stay on the road. Toward that end, he's holding a fund-raising tournament on May 6, at Del Rio, an event that will serve two purposes: 1. To help him with his travel costs, and, 2. To provide scholarship grants to two young local golfers.
"I've always wanted to give back," Thornberry said. "I was in their shoes not too long ago."
The tournament fee will be $200. Those interested in taking part can sign up at River Oaks in Ceres, Turlock CC or Del Rio, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE SHAG BAG Former Mantecan Jeff Baker, who qualified for the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot while he already had begun a 34-year battle with cancer, died last September in Wimberley, Texas. He was 54. Baker and brothers Mike and Tom, all graduates of East Union High, dominated the Valley Oak League during the mid-to-late 1970s. Jeff went on to play for San Jose State between rounds of chemotherapy and also took part in various satellite tours. A celebration of his life no crying was allowed was held last October at Elkhorn in Stockton. ... Ripon pro Don Winter, who's worked at Spring Creek CC and Trinitas, has been employed over the past year at Castlewood CC in Pleasanton. He spends virtually all of his time at the club's lower "valley" course. ... Coming up: A Free Kids Day in memory of the late instructor Henry Rios, to be held April 6, at St. Stanislaus Golf. Call (209) 538-2828.
HOLES-IN-ONE Jim Walczak, Mi Wuk Village, 150-yard seventh, Mountain Springs, Sonora, 5-iron. ... Cindy Huesca, Modesto, 71-yard third at Escalon, 9-iron. ... Ron Uhl, Sonora, seventh at Mountain Springs, 5-wood. ... Bob Chapman, Manteca, 132-yard 11th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 6-iron. ... Gary Krebbs, Ripon, 90-yard fourth at Jack Tone, wedge.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter at modbeesports.com