SILVIS, Ill. â€“ Parker McLachlin shot his second straight 66 on Friday to get to 10 under and in contention halfway through the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. If you shot yourself into space or went down for a 10-year nap after watching McLachlin win the 2008 Legends Reno Tahoe Open, now the Barracuda Championship, this would not be very surprising. But thereâ€™s been a bit of a gap in the career of the lean, long-hitting Hawaiian. Okay, more than a gap.Â Â â€œA gaping hole,â€� McLachlin said with a laugh after making seven birdies and two bogeys to get into position for his best finish inâ€”well, thereâ€™s no point in looking too far ahead. â€œI had a dark period in my golf career,â€� said McLachlin, who is 1,407th in the Official World Golf Ranking and has a best finish of T26 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in six starts this season. â€œI couldnâ€™t stand on a tee and know if it was going 50 (yards) left or 50 right. It was really challenging.â€� After playing a lot of tours youâ€™ve never heard of, McLachlin was brimming with optimism when he got back out on the Web.com Tour last season. He earned just $14,300 in 18 starts. â€œI just got my ass kicked,â€� he said. â€œI was trying so hard, but I was wanting it in the wrong way.â€� Not for the first time, he considered alternate employment. He had the big talk with his wife, Kristy, but theyâ€™d had this talk before; theyâ€™d been having it for five-plus years. This time, though, McLachlin phoned fellow Hawaiian golf influencer Mark Rolfing. â€œThatâ€™s when I out there were like five ideas of things I could do within golf in Hawaii, things I would fit perfectly for,â€� McLachlin said. â€œAnd I was like, Wow. I was like, I really donâ€™t care. Iâ€™ve got so many other fun things going on. Thatâ€™s when the putts started going in. I was swinging free.â€� More than a golfer, McLachlin is an athlete. His dad, Chris, played basketball and volleyball for Stanford and was Barack Obamaâ€™s hoops coach at Punahou High in Honolulu. (McLachlin played a pickup game with President-elect Obama in December, 2008.) McLachlinâ€™s mom, Beth, was captain of the 1976 U.S. Olympic volleyball team. At his best, McLachlin possesses an enviable, athletic move that produces a big hit off the tee, with supple hands around the green. Paul Azinger got his first glimpse of that talent when he and a then-16-year-old McLachlin played nine holes at Waialae Country Club. Four years ago, when they reconnected there by chance, both were in very different places. Azinger was retired, and about to dive back into a TV career with new USGA partner Fox. McLachlin had completely forgotten how to play.Â â€œI think I was maybe playing some state open or something like that,â€� he said. â€œPaul happened to be doing an outing. And he was friends with the head pro there, who taught me the game originally, Greg Nichols. I was getting ready to quit the game and go do something else, and Greg said, â€˜Hey, Paul is in Hawaii, youâ€™re in Hawaii, letâ€™s get together for lunch.â€™â€� McLachlin and Azinger spent three hours together. â€œI was probably near tears for half of it,â€� McLachlin said. â€œPaul said, â€˜Come back to Tampa, come stay at my house, I feel like I can help navigate you through these dark times. Donâ€™t give up on it yet.â€™ And so, I went back to Florida, and he and his family opened up his house.â€� What did they talk about? Some of it was technical; McLachlin said they share â€œsimilar grips, similar release patterns.â€� Mostly, though, it was a chance for McLachlin to unburden himself by shedding years of the accumulated doubts, insecurities and lousy advice. â€œIt was more kind of decluttering and reminding me that Iâ€™m an athlete first and a golfer second,â€� McLachlin said. â€œI would go back and see him like three times a year for maybe a week at a time. I would stay at his house and we would play 27 holes a day.â€� The mental uncluttering in search of the raw talent of his youth was a sort of golf version of the old Picasso quote: â€œIt took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.â€� The best times, McLachlin said, were their drives to and from the course. Strangely enough, they would take McLachlinâ€™s rental car to either Gator Greek or Concession in Bradenton. â€œHe owned 12 motorcycles but no car,â€� McLachlin said of Azinger. â€œSo weâ€™d hop in my rental car and itâ€™s 30 to 35 minutes out, and he just gets to talking, story after story, and Iâ€™m asking questions. Those rides were a big part of decluttering everything I had built up from poor instruction, or inaccurate instruction. All that stuff that was still in my head.â€� At points, McLachlin recalled with a laugh, Azinger was tenacious. â€œHe kept reminding me, â€˜Isnâ€™t your goal to be the greatest player to come out of Hawaii?â€™â€� McLachlin said. â€œIâ€™m like, â€˜Yeah.â€™ Heâ€™s like, â€˜Bro, youâ€™re so close to that!â€™ [Laughs] â€˜You canâ€™t give up!â€™ â€œHeâ€™s big on making your mark on history, and for me itâ€™s always wanting to be the best golfer to ever come out of Hawaii, and he just continuously reminds me of that.â€� Kristy continues to do some accounting work for a hedge fund, as well as keeping tabs on their kids, 7 and 4, while Parker is away from their home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Rolfing remains a lifeline, as does Azinger, with whom McLachlin spent 20 minutes on the phone Thursday. What becomes of McLachlin now may depend on how completely he can leave the last five-plus years behind, get out of his own way, and start painting like a child again.
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