Korn Ferry Tour debutant Corey Shaun assumes 54-hole lead at Great Exuma
January 18, 2022
By Zach Dirlam , PGATOUR.COM
- January 18, 2022
- Corey Shaun carded a third-round 64 at Sandals Emerald Bay GC to take a one-stroke lead into Wednesday's final round. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)
GREAT EXUMA, The Bahamas – Corey Shaun just hoped he would make it through his first Korn Ferry Tour start.
A back injury which forced Shaun to withdraw halfway through the Final Stage of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament, leaving him with only conditional status from his runner-up finish in the 2021 Forme Tour Order of Merit. Not only is Shaun in the field on his priority number for The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, he is the solo 54-hole leader, as the UCLA alum fired a bogey-free 8-under 64 Tuesday afternoon.
The 25-year-old finished one stroke off the tournament and course record, a 9-under 63 by John Oda in the first round of the 2019 The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. Shaun capped a 5-under 31 on the front nine with birdies on each of the last three holes, then birdied the par-4 12th and 14th and par-5 18th on the back side.
“I had to take about five weeks off, and I was still so sore leading up to this tournament that the day before the official practice round, I couldn't even go out on the golf course,” Shaun said. “I just hit some balls and practiced a little bit. I was like, if I play nine holes, my back is going to give out. I don't know what's going on right now, but the Aleve or the adrenaline is helping out.”
Shaun turned professional in 2018 after a quiet career at UCLA. He posted a 74.8 scoring average his first three seasons, and only made two starts as a senior. Shaun, who plays from Encinitas, California, took his game to PGA TOUR China, where he logged one top-10 in 21 starts across the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Everything changed in 2021.
With PGA TOUR China closed off for 2020, Shaun essentially had nowhere to play in PGA TOUR-sanctioned events. A trip to the 2021 Forme Tour Q-School earned Shaun conditional status, which was not enough to get him into early-season events. Shaun Monday qualified into the Bolingbrook Golf Club Invitational for his first Forme Tour start in late July, but he missed the cut and it looked as though he would be stuck at the lower end of the priority ranking.
A sponsor exemption into the Birck Boilermaker Classic the following week provided one more opportunity. Shaun finished T31, moving him up enough in the reshuffle for starts in the next two events.
The second of those events was the Forme Open at TPC River’s Bend. Shaun held 36- and 54-hole leads and rallied from a two-stroke deficit in the final round for his first win in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event.
A solo second in the next event, followed by a T4 at the Forme Tour Championship solidified a No. 2 finish in the Order of Merit, thus awarding Shaun Korn Ferry Tour Membership.
“It just takes time sometimes,” Shaun said of his quiet college career. “With a lot of other commitments, schoolwork, I did struggle a little bit, and I think, later on, I got a better understanding of what made me a good golfer and what I needed to do to shoot good scores.
“All the success I had on the Forme Tour came in the second half of the season. Honestly, I didn't really expect it,” Shaun continued. “I didn't know where my game was. I just felt like I wasn't that far off, but I didn't really know I was capable of winning or anything like that either. I just wanted to play every week, so I always felt like I had a chance to contend."
Shaun’s father, Norman, caddied for him in all six of his Forme Tour starts last year. Norman is also on the bag this week at Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course.
“It's more father/son (than a player/caddie relationship),” Shaun said. “I won't lie, sometimes if I hit a bad shot it's more like, ‘What was that?’ Instead of a caddie's mentality of, ‘Oh, you'll get them.’ Having my dad on the bag, I feel a little bit more comfortable. I don't have to prove anything. I don't have to worry about what's the right shot.”
Shaun sits one stroke ahead of Carl Yuan, who carded a 6-under 66 and made four consecutive birdies from Nos. 14-17, and Clay Feagler, another rookie making his Korn Ferry Tour debut. Those two, along with Shaun, comprise Wednesday’s final group.
If either Shaun or Feagler goes on to win, they will be the first player to win their first Korn Ferry Tour start since Tom Lewis won the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. The last time it occurred in the regular season, as opposed to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, was when Sungjae Im, now a two-time PGA TOUR winner, captured the 2018 The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay title.
Final-round tee times will run in groups of three from 7:05 a.m. through 11:20 a.m. ET off the first tee.