Considering all that’s been broken in his life, Jason Seymour could use a break go his way.
A small one would be fine. A Big Break would be something else.
The 36-year-old mini-tour pro living these days in a condo across the street from the Van Nuys Golf Course with his wife, 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter has been downsizing his possessions since making a concerted commitment to get onto the PGA Tour. That’s been a dream that seems to elude him in many ways since he started playing the game as a 3-year-old through his father’s tutelage.
While Tiger Woods was winning CIF Southern Section golf titles at Western High in the early ‘90s, Seymour, a year younger, collected L.A. City Section titles at Venice High during his freshman and sophomore years. All those hours taking the bus over to Westchester Golf Course near LAX and playing under lights until it closed was paying off.
But neighborhood influences started to derail his golf quest, resulting in him changing schools, moving back to Ohio to live with grandparents, and trying to start a career at LSU and Southern University.
While having success on the course in mini-tour events, any thoughts of pushing forward came to a sudden stop after a motorcycle accident in 2002 nearly ended his life.
Settling down with a new wife and working in construction, Seymour says he finally had a fresh look at what golf had to offer again as he worked teaching kids.
His son encouraged him to drive nine hours overnight to an audition in Phoenix for the Golf Channel’s latest reality show, “Big Break Mexico,” and he made the field. The show, which starts Monday, has the payoff of an exemption to play in a PGA event in mid-November as well as more than $100,000 in prizes.
Just prior to the taping of the show in January, Seymour’s father passed away, giving him more incentive to follow through on his goal of making a comeback. Seymour, who lives across the street from Van Nuys Golf Course, can’t disclose how he finished in the event, but based on a recent conversation, his story will resonate with viewers one way or another:
Q: How has golf been treating you lately?
A: I’ll be honest, it’s a struggle. Finding sponsors. Having someone take a chance on you after all I’ve been through. Am I 100 percent. I just have to let my game speak for myself. There’s a huge financial struggle as well. I was trying to juggle my construction work with my golf, but that was impossible. You just can’t play two or three days a week. So, I’ve decided to sell off things, liquidate, go on eBay and Craigslist. Having Viking appliances in my kitchen won’t get me to pro golf. I’ve moved out of my West Hills home and just keep downsizing.
Q: When you had the motorcycle accident almost 10 years ago now, you’ve said it seemed to derail everything. Can you describe what that was like?
A: I just didn’t want to have anything to do with golf anymore. Instead of motivating me to work harder, I’d hit balls and it was a chore. The universe hit me loud and clear. I hit rock bottom. I felt that I was being put through some rigorous test, and I didn’t know how I’d persevere through it. I’m not saying it was a blessing in disguise, but I was definitely an eye opener as to I really am. In golf, they say you deal with adversity when you hit a ball into the water. What I was dealing with after that accident was my head split open, stitches all over me, told I was dead a couple of times, a rod in my elbow, my knee torn open, broken ribs. That was a new meaning for adversity for me. That let me know how strong-willed of a person I am. I healed faster than I was supposed to because of a spiritual healing, pushing myself during physical therapy. I really came out as a different person, more calm, losing those old habits of being angry. You can change your attitude over time.
Q: Growing up in L.A. presented challenges for you. What was it like having a golf course in Westchester nearby to retreat to and play all the time?
A: It felt like my safety net. I knew no harm there. I just had to take the No. 2 bus up Lincoln Blvd., down to Manchester and walk a block and a half. I’d see kids leaving Westchester High and hang out at the basketball court, and they’d say things to me. I could have done stupid things. There could have been a lot of animosity with gang members. I saw the neighborhood where I grew up in the projects in Venice not as living in a bad neighborhood, but the people inside it made it bad. I was happy to get away from it, all that nonsense, where my friends would go to jail – one spent 19 years for selling drugs trying to make quick money. I’d be at Westchester with my older brother Philip working my 60 yard flop shot, my 120-yard approach shot. That was my homework every day.
Q: You must have learned that playing golf was a lot like living live, right?
A: It’s the game of life. I loved playing baseball, but it got to be boring. Golf gave me more focus, making life decisions all the time. If you’re faced with obstacles, you either pull out your ego or you humble yourself. And if you don’t, the course will do that. I won’t get ruffled as much on the course any more. I won’t exert bad energy. If I hook a shot, so be it, just accept it and try to do better. I used to slam my clubs and get angry, but then, somehow I fell in love with it again. I didn’t feel as if I was trapping myself in the game. If I messed up, it was the end of the world and I was down on myself. Now, if I make a double (bogey), cool, that just gives me more holes to make a birdie-birdie. You’ve got to have that attitude.
Q: Do all those tattoos we can see on your arms tell a story?
A: It’s all about who I am and kind of where I’m going. I have the portraits of my kids on my right arm. A statue and figurines of Aztecs and Mayans, to represent my Central American background. On my left arm, it’s a portrait of Jason from Friday the 13th. When I’m on the course, that reminds me to stay focused on the kill and no one can stop me.
Q: If golf was a mental and physical drain years ago, what makes it fun today?
A: I’m finally comfortable in my own skin, in what I say and do and how I carry myself. I’m finally finding myself. Also my kids are incredible. My son has a phenomenal swing. I’m also coaching his soccer team. I guess my love for the game has been re-defined by them, knowing I did it as a kid and wanting to advance it through generations of my family. I saw the opportunities my dad made for me through golf and I’m trying to pass that on times 50 for my kids.
Q: If you get some momentum going, could you see yourself up to speed and playing on the PGA Senior Tour by age 50?
A: Before I get to 50, I see myself with a PGA career. Vijay Singh didn’t get on the Tour until late (a rookie at age 30) and look what he did. I know I’m in the best physical shape of my life. I know how to stay in shape. As long as I’m still ripping the ball 340 yards off the tee, I think I can compete on any level and be successful.
Q: When this “Big Break” series ends and people have seen your story, what do you want viewers to take away?
A: No matter what the adversity, I’m a fighter. I’ve played with a broken arm before. I won a tournament with a broken pinkie once where I had to tear the cast half-way off just to play. Anything is possible for me as long as I have another hole to play. That’s how much I love the game. It will always remind me of my father. I play it for us now. My dad started the golf program up at Venice with coach Fairbanks, and both of them just passed away – the two people I’d really wanted to see me now trying to play again are gone.
After all this is over, if someone wants to take a chance on me and see someone’s dream come true and be part of something special, that would be a really cool story.