Tyler Finn was shaking.
He heard his name an-nounced. He felt the stares of many spectators.
Finn was at his first event as a member of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, which helps striving golfers all over the country play more competitive golf as well as break into the next level of a professional.
"I've played college football, baseball — been part of the police department for so many years," said Finn, a 22-year New York state trooper. "All that and I'd never been that nervous. All of sudden, I'm in golf competition for the first time — it now meant something. You get up there your first time, everyone is nervous."
The drive turned out pretty much how Finn figured. It was a 100-yard grounder, barely making it to the beginning of the fairway.
That's all right. Chalk it up as a fluke, because after that, Finn's first-time jitters were out of his system.
"It's a transition you go through as a new golfer," Finn said. "Everyone I've talked to has gone through the same thing."
Finn has had plenty of other members to talk to. Since the Golf Channel signed on as sponsor of the tour, which was formerly called the Michelob Ultra Tour, membership has nearly doubled, according to Gary Adamek, tour director for the Tampa/Sarasota chapter.
According to the Golf Channel's Web site, there are 71 chapters across the country offering events all year long.
"It's like a PGA tour for the amateurs," Adamek said. "There are flights that are based on their handicaps, so once you get to an event, you're playing guys that are straight up with your handicap."
The tour abides by the rules of the United States Golf Association, but the tour doesn't just take anybody. Finn said he had to prove his fairly impressive handicap by providing at least six scorecards from recent rounds.
Finn's handicap is about a 10, he says, putting him in the Hogan Flight. Finn has only been able to play in five events since joining, preoccupied coaching his daughters in softball on Saturdays, when most events are held.
But players such as Finn — early retirees who just like to have better competition on the links — aren't the only members on the tour. Adamek says there's all kinds of amateurs, especially the kind looking to get themselves on TV. The tour hosts qualifying events to get on e the Golf Channel's reality series, The Big Break.
"Quite frankly, we have across the spectrum of players," Adamek said. "We'll have players, young guys trying to get that next level, but we'll also have older guys who are definitely just wanting to stay competitive — they're just tired of playing that same group of guys week in and week out and they want that extra push on the course.
"That can be really important to them and I think they like that feeling, that they get to play on a tour, perhaps get a trophy."
Finn admits he would love to make The Big Break. He figures, who wouldn't want the chance to be on TV and get all expenses paid to play golf, but most of those slots, if the person qualifies on the tour, are scratch players, meaning they regularly shoot par for a course.
Finn is going to use this experience to better himself, and, really, he's just having fun calling himself a professional, albeit a semi-one.
"You get to know guys on the tour from all over the area. It's actually really nice to do that," Finn said. "It's like a little circle, a little clique of guys that everyone knows each other.
"The tour works to keep it fair, but it is just run so well. You're playing against guys that are your same level, but the competition is phenomenal. That's really the way I want it."
Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or call