The Travels And Travails Of Journeyman Trevor Cone
Trevor Cone isn’t one to show emotion. Just ask his coach, David Ross.
“You can’t tell if he just made five birdies in a row or five bogeys in a row,” Ross said. “He has great composure for such a high level of golf.”
So, when Cone walked away with his first Web.com Tour victory last August at the Ellie Mae Classic, a tournament he got into on conditional status, you could not tell that he had just realized his childhood dream. There were no tears, no leaps, no collapsing to his knees. Just a smile.
“It was amazing,” Cone said. “(Winning) just has to happen once. See it (once) and then you know you can do it. … I didn’t play great (at the Ellie Mae), I just put it all together. Everything came together when I least expected it to.”
Winning means everything, especially on the Web.com Tour, where each victory inches you closer to the grand prize of a PGA Tour card. But the victories mean more when the struggles have been mighty. What’s the old saying? “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Old saying, meet Trevor Cone.
Cone, a 26-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015. He won the ACC Championship his senior season. Since then, despite ambitions to make the game his life and livelihood, he has never once teed off in a PGA Tour event. In fact, he hadn’t even played in a Web.com Tour event until last season after finishing T90 at the 2017 Q-School, which earned him conditional status.
Prior to that, he spent 2017 playing the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. And despite having earned some status on the Web.com Tour, he spent all of January 2018 away from golf. He didn’t even glance at his clubs. And, Cone admitted, he didn’t miss it.
It was a crossroads moment. Cone had grown road weary. The summer of 2017 was a perfect example. He didn’t know how to get from one event to another throughout Canada and the U.S. He made more border crossings than a lot of flight attendants, although not often by air. Mostly he drove. Sometimes he stayed in hotels with other players. Often he bunked with host families.
One time in the middle of the Mackenzie Tour season, he and his former Virginia Tech teammate Scott Vincent rented a car to drive from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, Ont. To save money, they chose an Economy vehicle. So the two of them, along with their luggage and golf clubs, were crammed into a Mini Cooper for eight hours.
“It was like a scene out of Tommy Boy,” Cone said, chuckling. “I don’t know how everything fit. But it did and we made it.”
At the second Mackenzie Tour event of 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Cone was walking to the tee for his pro-am when he heard a voice say, “Hey Trev, have you checked the Web.com Tour links lately? I think you’re in the tournament this week.”
Cone checked his phone and, sure enough, he was listed in the field for that week’s Web.com stop in Illinois. So he withdrew from the Mackenzie event on the spot, leaving his pro-am partners on the tee, and traveled to mainland Vancouver via ferry to catch a red-eye flight to Chicago. Cone didn’t make it in time for a practice round, so he played the tournament without having seen the course.
He missed the cut.
Those kinds of stories leave most people Cone’s age slack-jawed. Why would you spend all that money to make nothing? But countless pros nod in recognition. Two generations ago, this was life on the PGA Tour: itinerant, lonely, marginally dysfunctional. Now, anyone in the top 50 on the PGA Tour, with or without a victory, travels better than most Fortune 500 executives. The life of the gypsy pro can be found on the roads between Lethbridge, Alberta, and Windsor, Ontario, or Calgary and Montreal.
“I think my game is in the right spot.” – Trevor Cone
In 2018 Cone thought nothing of driving from North Carolina to Findley Lake, N.Y., Kansas City and Washington, D.C. At the end of last April, he drove from Charlotte to Indiana and Monday-qualified for the United Leasing & Finance Championship. He shot 83-75 and missed the cut.
At home he seriously considered getting a real job in the golf industry. He looked around, made calls and sent out résumés. Nothing came through.
Now, he kicks off the 2019 Web.com Tour season Sunday in the Bahamas with full status thanks to his victory last year.
Both Ross, who works out of River Run Country Club in Davidson, N.C., and Virginia Tech head coach and director of golf Jay Hardwick always believed Cone would blossom.
“He progressed every year for us,” Hardwick said. “He played well for us his freshman and sophomore year, but by the end of his career, he was our best player, an All-American.”
Cone says he still doesn’t know how it happened, but “by the grace of God” he earned a sponsor’s exemption into last year’s BMW Charity Pro-Am. He finished T68 but felt a flicker of familiarity in his swing. That finish earned him a few more starts.
Things really turned after he finished T8 at the LECOM Health Challenge in early July. That got him into the next week’s Utah Championship, where he briefly held the lead before finishing T24.
He still had no expectations heading into the Ellie Mae Classic a few weeks later in Hayward, Calif. By Web.com Tour standards, it felt bigger because NBA standout Steph Curry was in the field on a sponsor’s exemption, which increased the media and fan turnout. Curry’s presence also allowed Cone to fly under the radar, which helped, especially with how his caddie situation played out that week.
On Thursday, he had a former college golfer on his bag and shot 64. But the caddie got food poisoning Thursday night and sent his cousin to carry the bag on Friday. Cone followed up with a 63.
After the second round, Cone ran into Will Murphy, a former player at the University of South Carolina. Murphy had been caddying for Lee McCoy, but McCoy had just let him go.
Cone was trying to recruit Murphy for the following week in Portland, Ore., but ended up hiring him to finish out the weekend in California.
“If I’d had a local those last two days, I wouldn’t have been as comfortable down the stretch,” Cone said.
He was comfortable enough to shoot 66-64 on the weekend at TPC Stonebrae and see his life change. The victory earned Cone $108,000, a more-than-healthy sum for most twentysomething American males but slightly less than the player who finishes 15th in the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii will take home this Sunday.
Still, Cone’s victory proved he’s come a long way. With full Web.com Tour status, he can set his schedule.
He has mini goals for himself – make the cut in his first five starts while earning at least one top-25 and one top-10 finish. Of course, his season-ending goal is to be in the top 25 on the money list and earn a PGA Tour card.
“I think my game is in the right spot,” Cone said. “I said to myself if I can gain status on (the Web.com) tour, maintain it and plan my own schedule, it takes a lot more pressure off of me and earning my PGA Tour card. I’m not in the reshuffle, or anything like that, so there’s not a lot of pressure right now. I want to get off to a hot start, and know I can play whenever and take off (tournaments) whenever.”
Trevor Cone, realizing he’d won the Ellie Mae Classic last August. Photo: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images
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