Sullivan qualifies for Emerald Coast Classic after wild travel saga
March 31, 2021
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- March 31, 2021
- Ryan Sullivan will make his third start of the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. (Elise Tallent/PGA TOUR)
MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Ryan Sullivan, who holds conditional Korn Ferry Tour status in 2020-21, didn’t think he’d be here. As of Sunday afternoon, he was taking a lesson in Charlotte, with little intention of competing in the Monday qualifier for this week’s Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin.
After ‘flushing it’ on the range, he decided to make the last-minute trip to the Emerald Coast in an attempt to play his way into this week’s field at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort (Raven). He made nine birdies, survived a 4-for-2 playoff, and will tee it up Thursday as he aims to better his position for future reshuffles.
The 31-year-old self-described journeyman had a hunch, and it paid off.
“I met up with a guy – Donny Lee – and went over some swing stuff, and I was striping it. Absolutely hitting it great,” Sullivan recalled Tuesday in Miramar Beach. “Donny was looking at me like, ‘I think you need to go down to Destin and try to capitalize on this opportunity.’
In a tale straight out the Korn Ferry Commute handbook, Sullivan began investigating his options. He considered the nine-hour drive from Charlotte to the Florida Panhandle – “For as long as I’ve done this, it’s not ideal, but I was considering it” – before finding the last seat on a direct flight to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach airport. After an hour-and-a-half delay, he touched down around 10:30 p.m. CT.
He was able to procure a hotel, but there were no rental cars available. No ride-share or taxis to be found, either.
As Sullivan stood in the airport’s waiting area, the North Carolina native struck up a conversation with a man wearing a University of North Carolina hoodie. The man offered Sullivan a ride to his hotel, which was happily accepted.
The next morning, Sullivan found himself facing the same issue – an 8:40 a.m. tee time in his qualifier at Emerald Bay GC, no ride options available, and a 40-minute commute.
In the true Korn Ferry Tour ethos of ‘people helping people,’ Sullivan received a near-miraculous assist.
“The same hotel employee who had checked me in, she was still there and saw I was in dire need,” Sullivan recalled. “She drove me 40 minutes to the golf course with all my luggage.
“When we were meeting in the parking lot, she instructed me to meet by the pool, because we needed to be incognito. It was against company policy. Pulling out of the lot, she pushed my head down underneath the window, by the floorboards, like some stealth operation. Got to the course 25 minutes before my tee time, with all my luggage.
“I looked like Will Smith from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Sullivan hit a few balls, strolled to the tee, and proceeded to play his first 12 holes in 1-under – including a double bogey. He caught fire from there, making birdie on five of his last six holes to post 6-under 66, good for an eventual playoff.
On the fourth playoff hole, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington alum advanced to earn his third Korn Ferry Tour start of the 2020-21 season.
As a conditional member, Sullivan knows every opportunity is paramount as he eyes to build a more consistent schedule this season.
With strong play this week on the Florida Panhandle, he could avoid the need to jump through so many hoops in order to earn a tee time.
At the very least, he’ll always have this story, and further indication of the power of following one’s instincts.
“You hear guys talk about after a winning week, they say they felt calm, and it was one of those deals where I felt like I had nothing to lose,” Sullivan said. “It was one of those situations where it just felt like it was destiny, and even when I had some struggles Monday of making a double bogey, I was still calm. When I got to playoff, I just had confidence that I would at least get a tee time.
“Now that we’re here, I might as well enjoy it.”
Perhaps destiny in Destin.