Chandler Phillips hits bullseye with opening-week win
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Says hunting mentality prepared him for being in contention
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Chandler Phillips is a hunter. Duck, mainly, but deer, too. The hunting season starts in early October and goes through January – perfect for golf’s off-season. It’s a break he takes from the game every year and allows him to restart and reset. He worries that if he played golf all the time he’d merely end up going through the motions.
Phillips, who grew up outside Houston, won the first Korn Ferry Tour event of the season, the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, after, yes, taking his usual long break. Although he was sorry to miss a duck-hunting trip with his pals back in Texas, his victory last month puts him in prime position to earn a PGA TOUR card for the first time. The hunting mentality continues. He’s just hunting for something more now.
The similarities between hunting and winning golf tournaments are real, he says. Those comparisons have helped.
“Especially when you get in position when you could actually win a tournament or when you’re getting close – you’re getting nervous on the golf course,” he said. “The nerves you get (when hunting)… you should be getting them. If you’re not getting nervous then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Growing up, every deer I’ve shot I’ve got very nervous. They call it ‘buck fever.’ You shake and you have to figure out how to calm it down and go from there.
“It’s kind of the same thing on the course.”
Phillips has played golf all his life, competing against the likes of Scottie Scheffler in Texas. When he got to high school and began playing tournaments, he won a lot. He wasn’t highly ranked, but blossomed between his junior and senior years. He was a star at Texas A&M, improving each year he was there.
“I loved it,” Phillips said. “I didn’t play another sport, really. I used to play baseball, but my dad said I had to pick one of two since the seasons were the same. I had already picked golf once, so I figured I would see where it took me.”
Scheffler, of course, won four times last season, including the Masters Tournament. He was world No. 1, and PGA TOUR Player of the Year. He successfully defended his title at the WM Phoenix Open last month, and isn’t at all surprised by Phillips’ success.
“He’s an East Texas guy,” Scheffler said. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s super talented. … I’m sure you’ll see his name pop up (on the PGA TOUR) pretty soon.”
Told that Phillips had just won in the Bahamas, Scheffler added, “Did he win today? OK, yeah. Makes sense. He’s pretty good.” Scheffler laughed at his understatement.
Even with the early season win, Phillips – who plans to keep his all-time moustache as the year goes on, unless he gets too much flack for it – says he hasn’t changed.
He admits, almost bashfully, that he’s not a goal-keeping guy. He rolls with the punches.
“I figured out in the past that when I set goals with this or that and I don’t (achieve them) I get really frustrated instead of not really caring about the outcome,” he said. “Obviously winning is amazing. That was awesome. That was the biggest highlight of my professional career. But I just go with the flow and I don’t have too much in my mind with what I do.
“I’m just going to play each tournament like I’m a nobody. I’m a normal guy. I want to play it smart. If I come out on top, I do, and if I don’t, so be it – we’ll see in October where that puts me.”
Through four events in the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour season, Phillips stands atop the Points List. It’s a spot he’d love to maintain as he hunts for his first PGA TOUR card.