McDaniel secures Korn Ferry Tour status to wrap up successful 2019
November 27, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Chip McDaniel played in eight PGA TOUR events in 2019. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
As the calendar turned to 2019, Chip McDaniel had no status on any Tour.
Now, after advancing through Second Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament, he’s one more good result away from securing guaranteed starts in 2020.
The 24-year-old admits he hasn’t had much time to soak in his successes, after a whirlwind year that has included 10 PGA TOUR starts – including qualifying for his first major championship.
In terms of mindset, though, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of how he felt at this point a year ago.
“I was pretty down for a little bit, but then I just stopped feeling sorry for myself,” said McDaniel, who played collegiately at the University of Kentucky.
McDaniel worked with his coach, Cory Kaufman, on some lower-body fundamental changes, small tweaks that had a big impact. The first time he teed it up at something meaningful, after falling short at Second Stage in 2018, he played well.
“I just stopped feeling sad and used that motivation to get better,” said McDaniel.
Despite having no status this year, he resolved to build up his mental toughness as he readied for his next crack at Q-School.
“I had to just keep grinding,” he said. “That’s how I would describe this year: just a nonstop grind.”
McDaniel made a name for himself – and had a bit of a cult following – after successfully navigating three PGA TOUR Monday qualifiers.
He played eight PGA TOUR events, including the U.S. Open (where he made the cut) and finished T5 at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, his best result of the year.
“Through it all, I barely even got to soak it in and realized I played my first major and I got my first top-10 in a PGA TOUR event. Not even a PGA TOUR event, but a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event,” McDaniel said.
“Looking back now it was a pretty successful year. This time last year, I missed at Second Stage and started the year with basically nothing.”
McDaniel’s T5 in Punta Cana got him into the following week at the Valero Texas Open. He advanced through Monday qualifiers at the Wells Fargo Championship and Travelers Championship as well.
At the Travelers Championship, McDaniel started to become more of a known name.
After the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach finished, he took a red-eye flight to Boston and drove to Cromwell, Connecticut for the Travelers Championship’s Monday qualifier. He got in, made the cut, and was paired with Brooks Koepka on Saturday.
A popular Twitter account - @ACaseOfTheGolf1 – started a small grassroots campaign for McDaniel to get into the Rocket Mortgage Classic on a sponsor’s exemption, and it worked.
“The support was awesome,” McDaniel said. “It wasn’t just local people around (Kentucky), it was people from all over.”
Although McDaniel had to keep his body in top shape through the year (he believes he competed in at least 12 Monday qualifiers from January onwards, not to mention mini-tour events and more), this year was more taxing for him mentally versus physically.
“With not having status, there is just so much outside stuff – other than playing golf – that creeps into your head. It was really tough to keep that off my mind. It was a long year, man,” McDaniel explains.
“There were a lot of times when I had to put my phone down and stay off Twitter and not see stuff like that – if you do ‘this’ you’ll get into Korn Ferry Tour Finals … if you do ‘this’ you’ll get special temporary membership – It was an adjustment for sure because I’ve not really been a person like that.”
McDaniel ended up 13 points shy of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and instead had to retreat to Q-School. He finished T8 at Second Stage in Plantation, Florida, playing his final seven holes in 4-under to finish two shots inside the number.
Now he’s trying to carry his year-long attitude to Final Stage, as he strives to finish top-40 and secure guaranteed starts to begin the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season.
“Growing up, I was never a good one-day qualifier guy, but my second year being pro, I’m ‘Mr. Monday,’” McDaniel said with a laugh. “I guess they are big-time moments and I’ve never been someone who’s scared of that. I’m really confident, and I’m really looking forward to a similar mindset, a similar grind but for a four-day tournament.”