Norway's Ventura converts conditional status into first PGA TOUR card
August 16, 2019
By Doug Milne, PGATOUR.COM
- August 16, 2019
- Kristoffer Ventura won via sudden death at the Utah Championship. (Zephyr Melton/PGA TOUR)
As the old adage goes, when at rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Not only is it easier to say than achieve, but when at rock bottom, hearing it comes across as a cliché of words uttered by those who have seemingly never been confined to that hollow echo chamber.
Ever since receiving his first set of golf clubs, 24-year-old Kristoffer Ventura has worked to reached golf’s grandest stage of the PGA TOUR.
Few people are more dialed into the reality that realized dreams are the result of painstaking work.
Ventura got his first set of clubs for Christmas at the age of two. The clubs were plastic. That wasn’t when he took up the game, though. When learning to walk at the age of one, he improvised throughout the house with kitchen utensils as clubs.
“I really started playing when I was three, playing a bunch of junior tournaments in Mexico. And, I did really good. I won a lot of tournaments and got the opportunity to go play a lot of other events for winning.”
At the age of six, Ventura won for his age group at the 2001 U.S. Kids Golf in Virginia. After that, he said, a lot of people saw his potential.”
Born in Puebla, Mexico to a Norwegian Mother and Mexican father, Ventura and his family moved to Rygge, Norway when he was 12.
“In Mexico, it was tough, because everything was out of pocket,” Ventura said. “Even traveling within Mexico was tough. If we had stayed there, I don’t know that I would have been able to keep it up. It wasn’t until we made it to Norway that it all really came together. I won with the National team and we started traveling. All our expenses were paid for, so that’s when I really started developing my game and playing against the best players in the world.”
That early passion ignited a decades-long pursuit that would finally – and officially – be realized at the 2019 WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz.Ventura earned his PGA TOUR card for the 2019-20 season. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Ventura’s ascent to the TOUR, though, was a long and painful (quite literally) journey.
“It all started with the different stages of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament in 2018,” Ventura said. “I had to do pre-qualifying, so I had three tournaments before Final Stage.”
Then, 10 days before the start of Final Stage, he was awoken in the middle of the night, writhing in pain.
“He called me and told me he had a really bad pain in his stomach,” said his father, Carlos. “He asked me what he should do. I told him he needed to go to the doctor right away. He called me after and told me they needed to operate. He was very worried, because he knew he was going to miss what he thought was his big chance.”
With what could not be delayed, a week before round one of the Final Stage, Ventura had an emergency appendectomy.
By virtue of making it to Final Stage, Ventura was assured of Korn Ferry Tour membership – provided he teed it up at Final Stage.
Two days after the appendectomy, Ventura told his father he was going to play in Final Stage.
And, he did. Technically, Ventura needed to hit just a single shot in Final Stage to maintain his membership. He could have withdrawn after one swing. Instead, he played all 72 holes. His scores of 71-72-75-68—286 left him just two strokes out of last place. The numbers weren’t representative of what he could – and would – do on a golf course, but the effort spoke volumes to the grinder’s character.
“Not that there’s ever a good time for a ruptured appendix, but that was especially brutal, because it’s the one week where you have to play well,” said Ventura. “Going into the tournament, I thought I would get into at least some events, based on making it to Final Stage, but when I learned that wasn’t the case, reality really set in and it was tough.”
Undeterred, Ventura began attempting to gain entry into events via Monday qualifying. By his best guess, he competed in upwards of a dozen Monday qualifiers, including Colombia. He was successful once.
At the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship in Prattville, Alabama, Ventura posted scores of 74-73 and missed the cut.
“The biggest low for me came after Alabama, because I knew how hard it was to get to the tournament,” Ventura said. “I put too much pressure on myself and ended up missing the cut. After that, going home, I knew I would be back at the Monday qualifiers, which was tough. I was thinking at that point about going to Europe and trying to play some Challenge Tour events, just to get some full-tournament reps in.” And, he did just that.
In June, Ventura accepted a sponsor invitation back on the Korn Ferry Tour to compete at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation in South Carolina.
Following a second round 10-under 62, which included five consecutive birdies down the stretch, Ventura finished T3, good for 145 Korn Ferry Tour points. His ascent from the bottom was looking up.
“If it wasn’t for that week in South Carolina, I wouldn’t be standing here now,” Ventura said.
And, the outcomes since have been astounding. In his second start after the T3 finish in South Carolina, Ventura won via sudden death at the Utah Championship. He then missed back-to-back cuts, before claiming his second title in his seventh start of the season at the Pinnacle Bank Championship.
Following that win in Nebraska, Ventura, had climbed all the way to No. 6 in The 25.
“It all happened for me when I stopped thinking about results and what I had to do and how fast I want to get to the PGA TOUR,” he said. “I decided that when it happens, it happens. I decided to focus on only what I could control and practice on just doing my best. I told everyone around me that if I just keep giving it 100%, I’ll be happy no matter the outcome.”
Ventura began last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open at No. 7, making him a lock for PGA TOUR membership for the 2019-20 season.
With the 25 PGA TOUR cards being distributed at Pumpkin Ridge Sunday night, Ventura flew his parents and two younger brothers from Norway to be a part of the ceremony. He has not been home since Christmas.
Ventura has made four starts on the PGA TOUR, with his lone made cut resulting in a T36 finish at this season’s Valero Texas Open.
“When I made the cut at the Valero Texas Open and played in the final round with Tony Finau and Martin Kaymer – and beat them, it was exciting, but also hard knowing I could compete out there but didn’t have the opportunity. The PGA TOUR is next level, so I really got a taste for it. Making it back there is all I have been thinking about since I played there. The competition is so good and it really does showcase the best players in the world.”
With his game and attitude still ascending, there’s no telling no far Ventura can and will go. One thing’s for sure, though. His time at the bottom may not have lasted as long as he initially feared, but it clearly provided him the clarity he needed to know he belongs out here.Ventura with college teammate and fellow Norway native Victor Hovland. (Dave Evenson/PGA TOUR)