Small-town Chandler Phillips brings big game to big stage
4 Min Read
Clinches first PGA TOUR card via top 30 on Korn Ferry Tour Points List
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
There was a time when Chandler Phillips was a youngster when he would play a nine-hole course with his father and grandfather over and over again. An early morning arrival. A sunset departure. Just laughs and beers – the former for him, the latter no, he was much too young. There were days, he recalls, of playing 72 holes on that nine-hole loop.
“We’d lap around that nine-hole course all day. Those guys would drink beers. It was funny. It was a real fun time just seeing how relaxed everyone was. Just not having a care in the world,” Phillips said. “That’s probably why I am the way I am.”
The soft-spoken Phillips, who hails from Huntsville, Texas, has long let his clubs do the talking. Laid back, yes but with a big-time resume of hearty accomplishments spanning junior golf in Texas to collegiate successes.
And now? A PGA TOUR card.
Phillips started taking golf seriously when he was 11 or 12, playing plenty of junior golf events and U.S. Kids tournaments, and he just kept climbing the ladder. He played baseball, too, but golf quickly became the thing he wanted to concentrate on. There were never really any summertime holidays for the Phillips family, he remembers – traveling to the golf tournaments were the holidays. Texas A&M came calling with a full scholarship. It was time.
Growing up, he often competed in the same events as Scottie Scheffler, who attended the University of Texas while Phillips was at Texas A&M. Their paths continued to cross, and now they’ll play the PGA TOUR together. Scheffler was asked earlier this season what he knew of Phillips, and the line of questioning just so happened to come along on the day Phillips won the Korn Ferry Tour season opener in the Bahamas.
“Did he win today? OK, yeah. Makes sense. He’s pretty good,” Scheffler said with a laugh.
In Phillips’ freshman year at Texas A&M, he managed to qualify for every event during the fall portion of the season. In fact, Phillips didn’t miss a single event for the duration of his college career. He tells a story, though, about how he was just getting “rolled” by his competition, finishing around 30th at each event in that first year.
“I went to my (head coach) and I was like, ‘I need to have a talk,’” Phillips said. “’I can’t play four years of college and get 30th every tournament. I can’t do it … I see how (my competitors) hit it. They’re no better than me. Why are they beating me the way they are?’”
Phillips said the conversation enlightened him to realize how much maturation was needed in college. He won a lot in high school. He fired at pins. Now, and all of a sudden, the flags were strategically placed. Phillips never thought about needing to go left or right specifically. It was big-brain stuff, and he was finally ready for the next step.
By the time his collegiate career was wrapped up, that first-year conversation allowed him to thrive as an Aggie. He left school with the most career tournament wins in Texas A&M history with seven, and he notched 27 top-10 finishes in his career. He was also named to the Palmer Cup team three times – the first time an American earned that honor. Phillips’ teammates on those Palmer Cup teams now read as some of the top names in the game. Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa played with him in 2017, for example, with Sahith Theegala and Justin Suh joining in 2018 (with Viktor Hovland on the international side, along with female major champs Lilia Vu, Jennifer Kupcho and Patty Tavatanakit).
Morikawa was that one guy who stood out. Every time they played together Morikawa “did not miss a shot,” Phillips said. Guys like Morikawa, now a two-time major winner, were “always” better than he was.
“But the Palmer Cup … you don’t get on the Palmer Cup by just random selection. It’s a good accomplishment. To be on the team with (players like Morikawa) showed me that maybe I am a little bit better than I think I am,” Phillips said.
Now it’s time to prove it, again, on a bigger stage. On the back of a season-opening victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay and five more top-15 finishes this season, Phillips is #TOURBound.
And, oh, wait. We haven’t even talked about his mustache yet.
Phillips showed up to the first event of the year with a mustache that even Tom Selleck would be jealous of. When he shaves, he looks 15, and when he has a full beard, he looks 45, Phillips said with a laugh. He had to do something. He shaved it down and it didn’t look great but (mom knows best!) his mom saw him and said she “kind of liked it.”
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Phillips said, “but I’ll take it.”
A notable look, backed up by some impressive results. Phillips is comfortable just being who he is – and now that person is a card-carrying member of the PGA TOUR.