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Humble Snedeker creating a name for himself on PGA Tour

Here’s what you already know about Brandt Snedeker: He won his first professional golf event last July at Somerby Golf Club in Byron.

He won the Nationwide Tour’s Scholarship America Showdown by outlasting one of his good friends, Jeff Quinney, in a two-hole sudden-death playoff.

(I’ve only lived in Minnesota for three years, but I think the unwritten rules of the state make Snedeker, a native Tennessean, a de-facto Minnesotan. So we can claim him as one of us.)

He played the entire week with confidence, and most of the final round with a smile on his face.

Hey, how many professional athletes would agree to a live TV interview (thank you, Golf Channel, for your lack of courtesy) when he has finished his round, but he knows a playoff is looming?

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Snedeker did that interview with a smile on his face, too, then resumed his nervous swaying from side to side.

Here’s what you may not know about Brandt Snedeker: That emotion he showed at Somerby last year was real.

Many pro athletes are good at flashing their charismatic side for the camera, or providing a humorous quote or two for us print media hacks.

Snedeker doesn’t have to do those things; talk to him for five minutes and you’ll see he’s just a genuinely friendly, laid-back guy.

An aw-shucks type of guy.

He’ll tell you what he did well on the golf course, then he’ll tell you about the coaches who tweaked his swing or his short game.

I may be way off the mark here, but I don’t think I am.

It’s not like Snedeker calls me up once a week and asks for advice. The best — and only — advice I gave him last year at Somerby was how to find the nearest McDonald’s on his way out of town (that’s how he celebrated his first professional victory, with a value meal).

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There are plenty of reasons to believe me on this one:

• A few minutes after winning the Showdown last summer, Snedeker sat in the media trailer — clutching his championship trophy — and answered questions from four reporters for more than a half-hour.

• During that session, he talked at length about how, up until that day, the proudest moment of his life had occurred just a couple of weeks earlier. That’s when he spent a week at home and was at the christening of his first niece, his goddaughter.

• After he earned his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 20 on last year’s Nationwide Tour money list, Snedeker made an immediate impact on the big tour. He led after the first two rounds of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in late January. I called his cell phone after his opening-round 61 and thought to myself, "Well, I’ll give this a shot, but he’s big-time now, so don’t expect a call back." Five minutes later my phone rang. The first thing Snedeker said to me was: "I can’t wait to get back and play at Somerby. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m looking forward to it."

And that is why I’m glad Snedeker will not be here this week when the Showdown returns to Somerby for a second consecutive year.

If he’s not here, it means he’s on the PGA Tour. In fact, he finished tied for fifth at this past weekend’s Stanford St. Jude Championship. His check for $228,000 (approximately 2.28 times as much as his winner’s check at Somerby) pushed him over $1 million in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He’s in 43rd place on the Tour money list with $1,074,581 (Quinney, by the way, is in 27th with $1,307,715).

Better yet, Snedeker has qualified for this week’s U.S. Open. He’ll tee off at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club at 11:41 a.m. Thursday in a group with fellow Nationwide Tour graduate Steve Marino.

Like many golf fans in southeastern Minnesota, I’ll have both eyes on the Showdown at Somerby this week, but one will be peeking at the U.S. Open leader board.

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Jason Feldman is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be reached at jfeldman@postbulletin.com

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