In a man-bites-dog moment, Oklahoma State senior Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra announced last week that he would forgo turning professional and would return to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for a fifth year.
Lopez-Chacarra is eligible for a fifth year at OSU by virtue of COVID-19 and the impact that the pandemic had on the 2020 spring season. But he also has a shot to join the Korn Ferry Tour through a program called PGA Tour University.
It is highly unusual for a talented upperclassman with a clear chance to play the PGA Tour’s top feeder tour to take a pass. Too many agents whispering in their ears, too many parents looking for a return on investment.
This is a remarkable example of a college player with great self-awareness. Good on Lopez-Chacarra, and good on Oklahoma State and its accomplished golf coach, Alan Bratton.
Lopez-Chacarra is a native of Madrid, Spain, where he won more than 100 junior tournaments. He initially enrolled at Wake Forest University and was named ACC Freshman of the Year and to the national all-freshman team in 2019. His sophomore year was interrupted by the pandemic, and Lopez-Chacarra was left thinking that there must be more out there for him. So, he transferred to perennial NCAA powerhouse Oklahoma State, a decision that has played out splendidly.
Lopez-Chacarra blossomed in his third year of NCAA eligibility, earning first-team All-America and first-team All-Big 12 status. In this, his senior year, he has won twice and posted three other top-five results. Some observers of the college game think he is the best player in 2022, and he is a candidate for several player-of-the-year awards.
Lopez-Chacarra is ranked No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, up from No. 62 when he transferred. He is also No. 3 in the PGA Tour University rankings. It is that ranking that might enable him to gain membership on the Korn Ferry Tour.
PGA Tour University was introduced in 2020 in an effort to groom future PGA Tour players, and before the alliance between the PGA Tour and the European Tour, keep them at home and not take the Brooks Koepka route. The program was aimed at NCAA Division I golfers who played for four years, and it awarded 15 such players access to the Korn Ferry and other PGA Tour-operated developmental circuits. The top five players in the rankings at the end of the NCAA Championship earn immediate membership on the Korn Ferry Tour and are exempt into the year-end Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
“There are no shortcuts to the PGA Tour. You want to be able to handle everything life throws at you. I think Eugenio’s decision shows a lot of maturity.” – Alan Bratton
There was a caveat: Because players can finish in the final top 15 of the rankings only once, they may opt out of the class of 2022 if they intend to return to school and accept an extra year of eligibility. Players had to notify the tour by April 15 if they wished to opt out of this season.
Such was the situation last week when Lopez-Chacarra took to Twitter to announce his plans to return to school. “I am convinced that an additional year of hard work in Stillwater will allow me to continue to grow academically and personally,” he tweeted, “which will only prepare me better for the PGA Tour and my professional career.”
“There are no shortcuts to the PGA Tour,” Bratton told GGP. “You want to be able to handle everything life throws at you. I think Eugenio’s decision shows a lot of maturity.”
Bratton also pointed to Jon Rahm, another Spaniard. After winning the 2015 Ben Hogan Award for national player of the year as a junior at Arizona State, he returned to Tempe for a fourth year, though he easily could have turned pro. He repeated as the Hogan Award winner in 2016 and never looked back.
As Bratton also likes to say, the PGA Tour will always be there. Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra listened.
Top: Lopez-Chacarra during the 2020 Andalucía Challenge de Cadíz (Photo: Octavio Passos, Getty Images)
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