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With back-to-back winners, PGA TOUR U has arrived

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With back-to-back winners, PGA TOUR U has arrived

Adrien Dumont de Chassart, Ricky Castillo win in Korn Ferry Tour debuts

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    The late Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is said to have argued that “youth is wasted on the young.”

    In the era of PGA TOUR University, Shaw’s argument could be losing steam.

    PGA TOUR University, which provides direct access to TOUR-sanctioned circuits for high-achieving college players, has gone 2-for-2 this summer on the Korn Ferry Tour. Two weeks, two winners.

    Recent University of Illinois graduate Adrien Dumont de Chassart, who finished No. 3 on the 2023 PGA TOUR University Ranking, won his first professional start at the BMW Charity Pro-Am two weeks ago. Then last week, the University of Florida’s Ricky Castillo, No. 9 on the Ranking, won the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open – winning in a playoff that included Dumont de Chassart, who led by four strokes through 54 holes and was bidding to join Ben Kohles as the only players to win their first two Korn Ferry Tour starts.

    Michael Thorbjornsen on the success of the PGA TOUR University graduates

    When trophies are flying, youth isn’t exactly wasted. Both Dumont de Chassart, 23, and Castillo, 22, were born after the turn of the millennium. They’re very much part of Gen Z, if not a newer age yet to be defined.

    In an earlier generation, conventional wisdom suggested that a couple seasons as a pro were preferred, if not mandatory, in order to reach one’s full potential.

    Throw that wisdom out the window.

    “These guys have grown up with speed, which is the game now,” said Rickie Fowler, now a full-fledged veteran at age 34, of the recent PGA TOUR University success. “They have been chasing it, developing it, and when you throw in proper fitting, it feels normal for them when they get out here.”

    For two kids just a few weeks out of college, suddenly on the verge of 2024 PGA TOUR membership – Dumont de Chassart has rocketed to No. 6 on the season-long standings, with Castillo No. 24, in the chase for 30 TOUR cards – the term “normal” might be underselling it.

    The week after completing his college career at the NCAA Championship, Dumont de Chassart headed to the South Carolina Upstate for the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Rather than scramble to find new living arrangements, he decided he’d keep his college home in Champaign, Illinois, as his base for the time being. Without any worries of situating a new lease, or procuring a moving van, he thrived with a 21-under total and playoff victor over Josh Teater.

    Adrien Dumont de Chassart gets up-and-down to win playoff at the BMW Charity Pro-Am

    Teater turned pro in 2001, a year after Belgium’s Dumont de Chassart was born.

    Supercharging Dumont de Chassart’s learning curve: Also in the BMW field was Michael Feagles, his college teammate of three years. They played an early-week practice round, then Feagles shot an opening-round 59. Proof positive that Dumont de Chassart’s game could hang at this level.

    Feagles was on-hand for his teammate’s playoff victory, and they shared a phone call afterward with their college coach Mike Small, who was fielding congratulatory calls of his own.

    “Made it a little easier for me; I was able to ask him questions,” Dumont de Chassart said of Feagles’ impact. “I came here, didn’t know where to go, what to do. I couldn’t register until Wednesday because I was still an amateur. It was a little nerve wracking getting here, but now it feels much better.”

    Meanwhile, Castillo was en route to Wichita via the open road, making the 19-hour drive from his college stomping grounds of Gainesville – where he’ll also keep his home in the meantime, as he sorts out this new world as a touring pro.

    Castillo was, at the time, uncertain of his playing prospects in Kansas. PGA TOUR University allocates five Korn Ferry Tour spots each week; behind No. 1 Ludvig Aberg who earned automatic PGA TOUR membership, it meant five spots were available from the PGA TOUR University category.

    At No. 9 in the Ranking, then, Castillo needed three more players ahead of him to either not play in Wichita or earn a spot otherwise, to avoid the fickleness of Monday qualifying.

    No. 3 Dumont de Chassart’s victory moved him into the Tournament Winners category, meaning he wouldn’t need one of the five spots. Check.

    No. 5 Sam Bennett was competing at the U.S. Open, on the strength of his 2022 U.S. Amateur title. Check.

    No. 7 Ryan Burnett finished T11 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am to earn a spot in Wichita via the top-25 category. Check.

    By that confluence of events, Castillo earned the fifth available spot via PGA TOUR U.

    A second-round 62 at Crestview CC propelled him into the hunt, and he capitalized with weekend rounds of 66-66 to earn a spot in a three-man playoff alongside Kyle Jones and Dumont de Chassart – the Belgian carded a final-round 70, including two bogeys in his final four holes, giving Castillo a second chance despite a double bogey at the short but gnarly par-4 15th.

    With a par on the first extra hole, suddenly Castillo was a Korn Ferry Tour winner in his professional debut – following the same script as his playoff adversary.

    Ricky Castillo interview after winning pro debut at Wichita Open

    “A week ago, I was coming out here just to play Monday qualifiers and ended up getting a spot out here and ended up winning … pretty surreal feeling,” Castillo said. “Just really grateful for the opportunity just to be able to play in this event, and to be able to win is just an awesome feeling.

    “I've wanted to play professional golf ever since I was a little kid, you know, watching Tiger Woods or any of the other big guys … really excited just to be in professional golf. I mean, this is my professional debut, so I'm just getting started. I just want to play tournaments and compete. That's all I'm looking forward to.”

    Castillo used the word “excited” five times in his winner’s press conference Sunday, and the word “grateful” four times. He could have practically floated to Oklahoma for this week’s Compliance Solutions Championship – the three-hour drive was sure to fly by.

    As for Dumont de Chassart? It was time for a well-deserved week off.

    No need to waste that youth, after all.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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