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Ryan Gerard stepping up at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Ryan Gerard stepping up at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

First start as Special Temporary Member of PGA TOUR

    It’s been quite a year for Ryan Gerard, who in his first start as a Special Temporary Member of the PGA TOUR will partner fellow North Carolina alum Ben Griffin at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

    Gerard, whose path from Korn Ferry Tour to PGA TOUR has been well-traveled – but never in quite the same way he’s traveled it – can’t wait to keep filing away positives at the highest level of competitive golf.

    “I’m learning as I go and getting a little more comfortable in all these different spots,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been doing a decent job of that and … it seems to be going well, so we’re just going to roll with it.”

    Gerard began 2023 with conditional Korn Ferry Tour status after finishing fifth in the Fortinet Cup standings on PGA TOUR Canada last season. In Canada, he notched a victory in his fifth start at the Quebec Open, added two more top-five finishes, and had six top-20s in nine starts.

    He learned a lot about himself.

    “For me, Canada taught me how to be a professional golfer,” Gerard said. “I learned a lot about myself as a player being, really, the first time I’ve done it completely on my own for an extended period of time.

    “Just things that were easy in college golf that you take for granted,” he continued. “You’re wide-eyed and it’s your own world and you make all the decisions – which can be good or bad.”

    There can also be plenty of missteps, but fortunes can change fast. After Gerard began this Korn Ferry Tour season with back-to-back missed cuts he shot a career-low 64 at The Panama Championship, then finished T3 at the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard.

    3 Things to Know | Ryan Gerard | The Panama Championship

    He didn’t win, but his first taste of being in contention was invaluable. It felt different than it had in Canada, which had felt different than it did in college.

    “Whether it be course set-up wise – everything is getting a bit tougher,” he said. “Or the competition – how many guys are bunched up on the leaderboard – or just, hey, 15 under would have won this tournament in college and it takes 25 under to win now. The guys are that much better.

    “It’s about learning and being OK with someone shooting 63 or 64 every day,” he continued. “Being OK with being lapped the first day and knowing you have the game to stay positive, calm, and confident. Knowing the value of a shot and scraping and clawing for every shot you can get because they are all so valuable at the end of the week and at the end of the season.”

    Gerard, 23, said being in position to win on the Korn Ferry Tour allowed him to believe in himself and the work he had put in over the previous six months or so, after the final putt of the PGA TOUR Canada season.

    And the following week brought brighter, louder fireworks.

    After surviving a Monday qualifier for The Honda Classic – via a playoff that went to Tuesday – he rushed to PGA National for a practice round that wrapped in the dark late Tuesday. He knew he was playing well, but not that he would open with rounds of 69-63 and finish fourth at the Honda.

    Ryan Gerard's near-albatross from 235 yards at Honda

    Somehow, despite his rapid rise, Gerard felt at peace.

    “The worst thing … would be I could go have fun for two days then have a month off,” he said. “I was playing well, my game felt good. I played really well and felt like I had a good grasp on everything that week.”

    Far from getting the next month off, Gerard’s fourth-place finish in Palm Beach Gardens got him into the Puerto Rico Open, where he tied for 11th. He would make the cuts at the Valspar Championship in Tampa and Valero Texas Open in San Antonio to nail down Special Temporary Membership.

    It didn’t come without an adventure in Texas, however. Gerard started the Valero with a front-nine 41 – two birdies helped him weather three bogeys and two doubles – but shot 31 on the back. Needing a solo 68th or better to secure the Special Temporary status, he wound up tied for 56th.

    Ryan Gerard makes important birdie on No. 18 at Valero

    “I didn’t play great this week,” he said at TPC San Antonio, “but I guess I played well enough to get it done … it’s a lifelong dream come true. Just ‘Ryan Gerard, PGA TOUR member,’ that's pretty sweet.”

    Gerard expects to play about 15 more TOUR events this season as he tries to gain status for next year. Of his pairing with UNC pal Griffin in New Orleans, he said with a laugh, “We’re bringing it back, the bad boys from college.” And he figures to get plenty more starts after this week.

    After winning on PGA TOUR Canada and learning to raise his game week in and week out on the Korn Ferry Tour, Gerard has been telling himself he’s good enough to play the PGA TOUR. He earned his way there.

    It’s been a trip well taken, and a reward well earned.

    “I just tried to keep that in mind over the last few weeks – you can compete, you’re good enough, you proved it,” he said. “It’s not always easy to play and the game isn’t always easy. It’s hard. There are a lot of good players.

    “You’re never going to be ‘on’ all the time,” he continued, “so it’s about keeping that in mind. Stay positive, stay focused, and not try to over-expect things but not write it off, either. I’m pushing. I’m trying my best. And I believe I can play out there.”

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