On the Monday prior to the AT&T Byron Nelson, John Merrick was able to drop his 6-year-old son off at school before heading to the course for a practice round.
Four days later, as Merrick was coming off the course in southern Dallas after finishing his final hole of the tournament, his wife, Jody, and two kids were there to greet him.
Such are the perks Merrick is able to enjoy while playing in his new hometown event. The PGA Tour journeyman moved to University Park from his native Long Beach, California, in 2014.
“Very rarely do you get to sleep in your own bed and play a tournament,” said Merrick, who narrowly missed the cut at Preston Forest Golf Club after posting a two-round total of 72-69—141.
Merrick was a golf standout at UCLA, where Jody was a member of the water polo team. After he turned pro, the couple settled down to raise their young family.
After some modest success, Merrick had his breakthrough in 2013, when he won the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club — only about 35 miles from Long Beach.
Still, as Merrick increased his schedule to dozens of tournaments around the country per year, his family needed to relocate to a more central location.
“The traveling got too hard, and we knew that [the children] would be in school soon,” Merrick said. “We figured this would be a great spot. It just felt like a good fit.”
Since his victory, Merrick has struggled to regain his form and consistency. He has competed sporadically on both the PGA Tour and lower-level Web.com Tour. This season, he has played tournaments in the Bahamas, Panama, Colombia, and Mexico, in addition to a handful of domestic PGA Tour tournaments, where his status as a past champion earns him exemptions. But he’s only made one cut on the main tour since July 2017.
“It’s been a grind the last few years,” he said. “I feel like I’m close, kind of knocking on the door, but I really haven’t had a string of tournaments to play in a row to kind of get into a rhythm.”
Merrick, 36, has remained a fixture at the Byron Nelson, where his best result is a tie for 16th place in 2015. He sees a promising future for the tournament after the new links-style course debuted this spring, and not just because it’s within driving distance from home.
“I played here about a year ago, when it was still really new and very firm. It’s nice to see more grass on the ground,” Merrick said. “It’s a great spot and a great event.”