Two continents, two qualifiers and five honks later, Eric Cole set for LECOM Suncoast Classic
February 12, 2020
By Preston Smith, PGATOUR.COM
- February 12, 2020
- Eric Cole's father, Bobby Cole, is a former PGA TOUR winner and mother, Laura Cole, was the 1973 LPGA Rookie of the Year. (Kevin Prise/PGA TOUR)
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. – After 31-year-old Eric Cole made eight birdies and an eagle to successfully Monday qualify for this week’s LECOM Suncoast Classic, he was looking forward to getting some sleep.
The mini-tour veteran, who a year ago this month was giving lessons, had finished T39 a day prior at the Country Club de Bogota Championship, flown home to south Florida that evening and made a 3.5-hour drive to the Sarasota metroplex Monday morning for the qualifier.
A lengthy rest had certainly been earned. There was one problem, though.
He had not packed clothes.
Gotta do what you gotta do.
That was Cole’s mindset over the past week and a half. First came the Monday qualifier for the Country Club de Bogota Championship. Cole flew to Bogota, Colombia, on a whim for a two-person qualifier into the tournament, held on the Pacos y Fabios course at the Country Club de Bogota. He proceeded to shoot a 61 to get into the field.
“I had heard through a friend that there was a local qualifier … I basically typed into Google ‘Country Club de Bogota’ and some other random Spanish words and the website popped up,” said Cole. “From there I found it and filled out the application and got down there to play.”
The Nova Southeastern University product did more than qualify into the tournament; days after shooting a 61 to gain entry, Cole carded a first-round 63 on the same course to take a share of the first-round lead.
“That was pretty cool to back up my 61 with a 63 on that course,” said Cole. “I was joking with some of the guys down there that next year they just need to play all four rounds on that course. I would do great! Regardless, making the cut was a big deal considering where I finished at Q-School.”
Cole ended up settling for a T39 finish last week (matching a career best) but the finish was huge considering his tenuous status. A T76 finish at Final Stage of Q-School in December earned him conditional Korn Ferry Tour status this season but no guaranteed starts. A made cut earned him a spot in the reshuffle category going forward.
The finish in Bogota was just the beginning for Cole. He had already planned to play in the Monday qualifier in Sarasota for this week’s LECOM Suncoast Classic. As soon as he got into the Country Club de Bogota Championship, he changed his flight back to Florida to Sunday night, later admitting “not a lot of thought was put into the logistics of it.”
Cole finished his final round in Bogota early on Sunday afternoon. He showered and changed at the course and eventually caught an evening flight back to Miami, landing around 1 a.m.
After finishing @CountryBogota on Sunday, Eric Cole:— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) February 12, 2020
• Took evening flight to Miami, Ubered to his car and drove an hour home.
• Slept 4-5 hours and drove 3.5 hours to Monday qualifier.
• Made 8 birdies and eagle to qualify ...
• Realized he forgot to pack clothes for week. pic.twitter.com/p2pXEBZbNM
Cole had left his car at Melreese Country Club in Miami (inside a gated residence).
“I Ubered from the Miami airport to Melreese and had let my friend know who lived there that I would be coming in late so the security at the gate would know,” said Cole. “I rolled up to the gated community around 1:30 a.m., and nobody is there at the gate.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to the Uber and asked him to honk his horn a few times. He honked his horn five times, and all of the sudden I see lights on a golf cart coming up the path. He looked at me and said ‘Oh, you must be Eric.’”
Cole retrieved his car and drove home to Delray Beach, getting in around 3 a.m. After about four hours of sleep, he woke up, drove three and a half hours to Sarasota and proceeded to shoot a 64 in the Monday qualifier for the LECOM Suncoast Classic.
“I was lucky enough that I got an afternoon tee time. I don’t know what I would have done if I had gotten a morning tee time. I was just so determined to get there,” said Cole. “I kind of had low expectations since I was running off of very little sleep. I knew if I played poorly, I already had an excuse built in. That might have taken some pressure off of me.”
Cole got off to a poor start with two bogeys in his first five holes, but an eagle at the ninth and a 5 under back nine led to his second straight successful Monday qualifier. In a 233-player qualifying field, he had earned one of eight available tee times Thursday at Lakewood National GC.
Then came the sinking realization. He had left all of his clothes at home.
“After I got done last night and made it in, I had to drive three and a half hours back home to Delray and did laundry,” said Cole on Tuesday afternoon, prior to playing Lakewood National’s front nine. “Then I drove back this morning. And now my car is making a funny noise. That two-lane road between here and Delray is not the best road to have any car issues on. It’s driving fine but it sounds weird.
“It’s time to reset and be ready for Thursday. But I’m definitely going to get some good sleep tonight.”
A well-earned rest, indeed.