Late Monday afternoon, the chase officially ended.
When the final putt dropped at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in Newburgh, Ind. – the concluding event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a tournament won by Englishman Tom Lewis – the last 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season had been secured.
Behind each of those – and the 25 Tour cards earned over the course of the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular season – came a story.
Fabián Gómez, Anirban Lahiri, Robert Streb and Zac Blair are headed back to the PGA Tour, where they’ve had enough success that their names are familiar.
Scottie Scheffler, who led both the Korn Ferry Tour regular-season and finals’ points lists, will begin his PGA Tour career riding the momentum of a career-changing season.
A double bogey, bogey finish in the final round of the final event left Peter Uihlein just outside what he needed for a third full season on the PGA Tour.
Doug Ghim, formerly the top-ranked amateur in the world, holed a putt on the final hole that meant the difference between getting a card and missing one, his joyful roar telling the story.
And 27-year-old London native Ben Taylor secured his PGA Tour privileges through the tour finals, validating a quest that took longer than he wanted but may ultimately be beneficial when he tees it up in his first event as a PGA Tour member next week at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.
As similar as they may look going about their business playing tournament golf, the story of each PGA Tour qualifier is unique.
In Taylor’s case, it’s the story of the son of a respected PGA professional in England leaving home to pursue a golf career. It has included a variety of stops along the way, a collection of disappointments sprinkled among the high spots and a perspective he will rely upon to carry him through the next phase of his career.
“It’s funny that when you see guys who’ve (earned their PGA Tour cards) and they say it’s a dream come true, there’s probably a sense that you’ve made it and everything is hunky dory,” Taylor said by phone Tuesday.
“Now that I’m here, it’s a dream come true but it means there’s a helluva lot more work to do.”
Preparing to make his debut as a PGA Tour member didn’t come without some interruption. Taylor decamped to Key West for a few days while Hurricane Dorian threatened Delray Beach, Fla., where he lives. He arrived home at lunchtime Tuesday with the storm still swirling at sea but with the most serious threat having passed.
“We’re supposed to have a bit more rain but it’s going to be angry in the sky on Wednesday,” Taylor said.
On Saturday, Taylor will head to the West Virginia mountains and the Greenbrier, where he will begin a season that doesn’t come with any promises. He won’t rank high enough on the priority list to pick the events he plays, instead teeing it up where spots are available, making a strong start essential over the coming three months.
Two years into his career on the developmental circuit, Taylor understood that aggressive play is essential. That doesn’t come naturally to Taylor, whose game is built on putting and on minimizing mistakes.
Taylor hopes that getting to this point has prepared him for what’s coming.
After watching Englishmen Luke Donald and Paul Casey come to the States to craft their careers, Taylor decided early that would be his plan. He landed at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he was part of the Division II national championship golf team.
From there, he transferred to LSU, where he was a member of the Tigers’ 2015 national championship team, holing the clinching putt in match play to secure the title and giving him the distinction of being the only golfer in NCAA history to win both the Division I and Division II national championship.
“I have a nice little collection of rings on my mantelpiece at home,” Taylor said.
Taylor spent three years on the Korn Ferry Tour before graduating to the PGA Tour, a testament to both his perseverance and the fickleness of securing a PGA Tour card. He failed to make the what were then the Web.com Tour Finals in 2017 and had to return to Q-School, where he regained his status for 2018.
He won early last season, usually a jump start toward securing a PGA Tour card. But Taylor missed the cut in the final event of the regular season, dropping from 25th on the money list (the top 25 earn PGA Tour cards prior to the playoffs) to 38th and, again, failed to advance.
“It wasn’t easy to turn what happened into a positive because it was heartbreaking but it led to some changes,” Taylor said.
Two years into his career on the developmental circuit, Taylor understood that aggressive play is essential. That doesn’t come naturally to Taylor, whose game is built on putting and on minimizing mistakes. He’s not the type to shoot 61 from time to time, more the type to turn up with a clean card and minimal stress.
Taylor spent the past year working on shooting lower scores, making himself attack flags he might otherwise play away from, a tactic with which he has become more comfortable, though he is unlikely ever to become a reckless player.
Having finished outside the top 25 in the regular season, Taylor used a T2 finish in the first playoff event to secure his PGA Tour card after three years of trying. Three times during the regular season, Taylor had been in the final group on Sunday but had not made anything happen in the final round.
When he needed it the most, he made it happen in the playoffs.
For Taylor and his Korn Ferry Tour classmates, the next chapter in their careers starts next week.
Doug Ghim celebrates after sinking a putt on the 18th green at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship that gave him his PGA Tour card for the 2019-20 season. Photo: Ben Jared, PGA Tour via Getty Images
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