Maggert's career sparked by 1990 Visit Knoxville Open victory
May 12, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Jeff Maggert won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour in 1990, en route to the money title and his first PGA TOUR card. (PGA TOUR Archive)
Thirty years ago, Jeff Maggert loaded up an old mini-van and hit the road.
Almost 40,000 miles later, he earned a PGA TOUR card for the first time, and his history-making season on the Korn Ferry Tour got started at the Visit Knoxville Open.
Maggert captured the inaugural Visit Knoxville Open in the spring of 1990. It’s one of just four events that are still going strong, 30 years later, on the Korn Ferry Tour. He won in a playoff against Greg Ladehoff – his first of two Korn Ferry Tour wins that year.
Maggert, now 56 and a multi-time winner on both the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions, recalls fondly that week in Knoxville as a key point in his development as a professional.
He was 26, a father for the first time, and a second child was on the way. He had won a handful of state open titles and even won a professional event in Australia earlier in the year – a victory that came with a hefty first-place prize, allowing him to pay his bills and make a decent enough living. But there was still something eluding him.
“I wasn’t starving, but I wasn’t on the PGA TOUR either,” said Maggert. “And that’s where I wanted to be.”
In 1990 Maggert had just conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour and had recently returned to America after a few events in both Asia and Australia – including the victory Down Under in February. He got a call not long after he returned to the U.S. from a Tour organizer, who asked if he was still interested in playing that year, since he had been eligible for a few events but did not play.
“I said, ‘Yes, absolutely,’” recalled Maggert. “The carrot for the top-five money winners to earn a TOUR card was huge for me, so I wound up playing almost all the remaining events.”
Maggert would go on to notch an impressive 17 top-25 finishes in 22 events. He’d also win the Buffalo Open later in the year and would be the first player in history to top the Korn Ferry Tour money list.
He remembers at the time being worried about the longevity of the Tour, as there were mini-tours that “would come and go everywhere.”
He played one, he remembers, where the organizer didn’t pay out prize money to the players.
“It was a crazy world of golf back then,” said Maggert. “The fact that the TOUR stepped up and backed (the Korn Ferry Tour) gave it so much credibility and Ben Hogan putting his name on it at the time … it was a much-needed qualifying system to get onto the TOUR. They needed that. I was so happy to see that happen.”
Maggert recalls trying to keep his expenses at $1,000 per week – including a caddie fee (he’d just use a local one every week), hotel and food. The camaraderie was tight amongst the guys that year, too.
“We were in the same world of mini-tours. We were all vagabonds going to different tournaments and different state opens … everyone knew each other pretty well,” he said. “It was a fun Tour.”We were all vagabonds going to different tournaments and different state opens ... it was a fun Tour.
Maggert was not only having fun that year, he was on top of his game.
He earned over $100,000 thanks to his two victories and 13 top-10s. In the Knoxville playoff, which was just his sixth Korn Ferry Tour event (he’d finish runner-up the following week), he remembers being in the zone.
“When you play well and you get into a bit of a zone, your confidence level just keeps building and building, and that was the state of my game that year,” he explained. “I felt like I had an opportunity to win every time I played.”
More than anything, Maggert remembers being a mature rookie on the Korn Ferry Tour.
At that point, he had gone to PGA TOUR Q-School four times and had never gotten through. He was in a different place than a lot of his contemporaries, having to play professional golf to support a family.
“It was a point where it was, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to buckle down and really do it, or find something else to do,’” he admitted.
He buckled down. He won in Knoxville. And that victory was the jumping-off point for a wonderful career.