'Veteran' rookies Harrington, Baker, Covello embrace TOUR opportunities
October 15, 2019
By Zephyr Melton, PGATOUR.COM
- October 15, 2019
- Scott Harrington registered a career-best T2 finish at the Houston Open. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Before last week’s Houston Open, the largest check Scott Harrington had earned in professional golf was for $86,400. It was a solid check, to be sure, but still somewhat modest in the framework of the upper echelons of professional golf.
Four solid rounds of golf in Houston changed that. Harrington’s 13-under performance at the Golf Club of Houston earned him a PGA TOUR career-best T2 finish and, with it, a check for $667,500.
In 14 seasons competing on the Korn Ferry Tour the 38-year-old netted a total of $787,464. Four starts into his rookie year on the PGA TOUR, he has made $779,372. Everything is just a bit bigger on the PGA TOUR; that includes the paychecks. But despite the newfound and grandiose stage that Harrington now performs on week in and week out, the easy-going Portland native insists he is comfortable as ever.
“I don’t really think there is that much of a transition,” said Harrington about his graduation from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA TOUR. “I feel like I’m doing the same things … Everything is a little bigger, but it’s been pretty easy so far. I just feel like it’s business as usual.”
When looking at Harrington’s results early in the 2019-20 TOUR season, it’s hard to argue. In four starts, he has recorded three top-25 finishes, including his T2 in Houston. And even though Harrington has never won a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event, his game has demonstrated a pattern of late: as the stage gets larger, so does his moxie.
Heading into the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season-ending Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz in August, Harrington needed a T2 finish or better to secure his first PGA TOUR card. He pulled it off. His masterful navigation of the tricky Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Witch Hollow course culminated in an 18th-green embrace with his wife Jenn, and a shiny PGA TOUR card.
Now on TOUR, the spotlight is always on as Harrington and others compete each week.
Fellow Korn Ferry Tour graduate and TOUR rookie Chris Baker echoed the sentiments of Harrington regarding the differences between the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA TOUR. The margins for error are smaller, but at the end of the day, they are doing the same thing they’ve done for much of their lives.
“We’re still playing golf,” Baker said. “It’s just a little grander stage.”
The 33-year-old’s scores have not reflected the quality of play he believes he has showcased early on in his rookie season, but he is confident a turning point is coming. Putts inside 10 feet have been particularly trying for Baker so far this season as reflected by his standing at 254th in Strokes Gained: Putting. His remedy is a familiar one: changing putters. It might seem like an unorthodox method, but it has been effective in the past.
Before the final round at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing and Finance earlier this year, Baker employed a putter switch. The next day, he played a gutsy round at Victoria National Golf Club to earn a TOUR card. Even though he now finds himself on a bigger stage, it’s more of the same for Baker.
Vince Covello is another journeyman who earned his first PGA TOUR card this year and is navigating the trials of his rookie season. The 36-year-old worked his way from the mini tours up through the ranks of the Korn Ferry Tour before finally breaking through in March and winning the Chitimacha Louisiana Open for his first-career victory.
“Just to see how big everything is is pretty cool,” Covello said. “Everything is just a little bit bigger in scale; the grandstands, the amount of crowds. It’s a pretty cool thing. Walking out that first week when you come out of the clubhouse and there’s so many people around and their eyes just go right to you, it’s like, ‘Wow, we’re here.’”
But even with the transition from the Korn Ferry Tour to the bright lights of the PGA TOUR, Covello’s main goal is to stay within himself and “do me.”
“I don’t want to let the situation define me or any environment define me,” Covello said. “I want to stay focused within myself and stick to my processes. If I handle that well, I think I’ll be OK. The results will take care of themselves”
For Harrington, Baker and Covello, the journey to the TOUR has been a long one. But the journey has also prepared them for the business they handle on the course. The PGA TOUR may be bigger, but only outside the ropes.
“The holes stay the same size, unfortunately,” Covello said with a laugh. “I wish they were a little bigger, too.”