Qualifier Gerard making the most of his golden opportunity
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Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62
Ryan Gerard has been on a journey that he shares with a lot of young and promising gollfers. He has been playing the Korn Ferry Tour this season with the long-range goal of one day collecting a PGA TOUR card.
Then again, two more good days at the Honda Classic could take of that.
With the KFT on a five-week break, Gerard, 23, who lives in nearby Jupiter, took a shot at Monday qualifying into this week’s Honda, vying for one of four spots among an original starting field of more than 100 players. He shot 66 Monday, then advanced through a Tuesday morning playoff. Now, after two good days at the Honda, he finds himself high on the leaderboard with a chance to make some noise this weekend. This week's winner will be exempt on TOUR through 2025.
Gerard shot 7-under 63 on Friday in what was a relatively stress-free round, something not very common at PGA National. He stands at 8-under 132 through two rounds, just two shots out of the lead. If you think this is all a “pinch me” moment for him, it is and it isn’t. Gerard always has envisioned things playing out this way for him.
“I wouldn't want to be doing anything else,” Gerard said before heading for lunch on Friday. “This is my dream ever since I was a little kid, just playing PGA TOUR events. I'm still on the road there, not officially made it yet, but I just really enjoy playing golf.
“I love everything about it. I love the competition. I love challenging myself. I love playing against the best players and seeing how I stack up.”
Thus far, Gerard has stacked up rather nicely. Coming off a career-best third-place finish at the KFT’s Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard in Bogota, Colombia, he continued his hot play early Friday.
The former All-America from North Carolina always has displayed a gear for going low. At North Carolina, he held the mark for most rounds of 65 or better (five), which included the 61 he fired at Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Classic. If there was a day to go low at PGA National, it was Friday, as gentle winds barely made a ripple in the water that guards 15 of the holes.
Sparked by a 22-foot eagle putt at the par-5 third, Gerard played his opening four holes in 4 under (he had played the same stretch in 1 over a day earlier). Gerard turned in 4-under 31, then added birdies at Nos. 12, 16 and 18. At 16 he poured in a 14-footer; at the closing 18th, a par 5, he was over the green in two, but bumped a perfect little pitch to about 3 feet and converted the birdie to cap a great day.
As much as Gerard enjoyed the pitch at 18, he said his most important shot might have been off the tee at the difficult sixth, a 474-yard par 4 playing into a slight breeze that the members play as a par 5. He was coming off a “sloppy” bogey at the par-3 fifth and did not wish to lose any more of the momentum he’d built up early in the round. Water guards the hole’s left side; Gerard stepped up to the tee and piped a drive that split the fairway and finished 299 yards away, leaving him only 171 yards in. He made par and was good to go.
“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the day,” he said.
Gerard’s only other PGA TOUR start was last summer’s U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he missed the cut. He was asked what he’d have said if earlier in the week if told he’d have been told he’d he'd be so high on the leaderboard heading to the weekend.
“Man, you’re crazy,” Gerard said he'd have answered.
The reality is that Gerard, who had six birdies and an eagle on his day, knows he has what it takes to play at this level.
“I think I'm in a good position. Something that I've really wanted to be is in contention in a PGA TOUR event.,” he said. “I had to go through a lot to just get to the tournament, and then get to this spot, so I think it's a lot of just solid play since then.
“But it's definitely something that I'm not surprised that I'm in this position. I may be surprised that I'm here this early in my career, but I've always kind of felt like I wanted to be here, and I was going to do whatever I could to make that happen.”
Ryan Gerard interview after Round 2 at Honda
As Gerard addressed the media following his 63 to move him two shots back of leader Justin Suh and tied for third place, Gerard’s mother, visiting from North Carolina, stood in close range, using her phone to video the scene. Gerard's father is here this week, too.
Ryan Gerard and his folks hope there will be many more video-worthy moments on the weekend. In the offing: That PGA TOUR card that would fulfill a childhood dream.