Ben Griffin set for final stage of Q-School after game-changing fall
The 25-year-old was working as a loan officer before a torrid run on the course
November 03, 2021
By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- November 03, 2021
Ben Griffin had no plans seven months ago of being here this week at the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. He had quit professional golf amidst a combination of burnout and financial stress and was working as a loan officer back home in Chapel Hill, N.C., and wasn’t playing any golf after work or on the weekends. But over the next couple months, the serendipitous signs came to be too much to ignore.
First, he realized that he was signed up for U.S. Open local qualifying and it was too late to withdraw and get his money back, so he figured he might as well tee it up. He made it through on the second playoff hole with a birdie. At sectionals, he came up one shot short of being an on-site alternate at Torrey Pines despite not playing for months leading in.
A couple weeks later, a member from Highland Springs Country Club, where the Price Cutter Charity Championship is hosted, that Griffin had gotten to know a couple years prior called and asked him if he wanted to play in his member guest. He agreed, and he played so well that the members were insistent he return a month later for the Monday qualifier for the Price Cutter Charity Championship.
“I was playing well, and I had a lot of support from that club. They were like, ‘Man, you gotta get back to golf. You’re not a loan officer. What are you doing?’” Griffin recalled. “I was like, ‘Man, golf was leaving me in a tough spot. I wasn’t making enough money. I need to work.’ They were like, ‘Well, let’s see what you can do. We want to buy you a flight and try to Monday for the Price Cutter.”
As he was flying out there for the qualifier, the man who had gotten him into the game, his grandfather, passed away. He found out the terrible news when he landed but knew his grandfather would still want him to give the qualifier a go. He advanced after playing the back nine in 5-under.
“I know he was watching over and helped me get through that Monday qualifier,” Griffin said. “After I qualified all the members were like, ‘Dude, you gotta get back to golf. Your grandpa passed away. He got you into golf. This is a sign.’”
Griffin agreed. There were other signs that he felt like couldn’t just be coincidence too. Twice a week prior to the Monday qualifier in back-to-back days on his way to work in his work clothes, he accidentally drove to the golf course instead and only realized what he’d done once he pulled into the course.
“I’ve got all these things kind of telling me you have to go play golf,” Griffin said. “Sure enough that Korn Ferry week I kind of made a decision that I should probably get back to golf and I had enough time working and had proved to myself that I was legitimate enough to do this for a living, which I kind of already knew. It was just more of a burn out and I needed to make some money.”
Luckily, during that same timeframe, the money issue was alleviated too. A friend he’d played golf with in Sea Island found out he had walked away from professional golf due to financial concerns from his strength coach Randy Myers and offered him a two-year endorsement deal with his company Lord Abbott to represent them. That financial support plus the support of the Highland Springs Country Club members got him back in the game in August. He put in his two weeks notice at work, registered for Q-School and started to work to bring back the game that the time away from golf showed him has been there all along.
In high school and college as a top-ranked junior and All-American collegiate player at UNC, he’s played with and had success against the phenoms his age like Collin Morikawa, Sam Burn, and Scottie Scheffler. In Canada, he won on the Forme Tour and finished top 10 on the Order of Merit. Some of the guys in the top 10 with him are now on the PGA TOUR. All those thoughts came to him sitting him at that desk, baffled as to how he lost the self-belief but more confident than ever that he had it back.
“Before there was a lot of me questioning myself and my belief, but when I was sitting at my desk thinking about how I was asking myself those questions a couple months prior, I was like, ‘Man, I am good enough! Why was I asking myself those questions?’” Griffin said. “I just didn’t have that self-confidence and belief six months ago and now I’m realizing you’ve got it and you have everything you need.”
Blessed with a new-found belief in his game and the financial stress of professional golf alleviated for the time being, Griffin’s been tearing it up the last three months. He’s won two mini-tour events, won a Pro-Am event with a number of Korn Ferry Tour pros in the field and advanced through both first and second stage with ease. He was even shocked at the lack of pressure he felt in the final round of second stage.
“This entire fall it’s been a gamechanger for me as far as mindset. I’ve gone from questioning myself to thinking how fast can I get to the PGA TOUR?” Griffin said. “Can I Monday qualify and win the Houston Open after final stage and all of sudden be playing in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii? Yeah, I think I can do it.”
Griffin knows that sounds cocky and doesn’t want it to, but he didn’t have that swagger before, and he admits he needs to embrace that to play well on the golf course. That aura of being able to accomplish anything he wants on the golf course has him feeling like he’s back to being that little kid on the putting green that used to dream of one day having a putt to win The Masters. It’s got him back to believing he’ll one day be a PGA TOUR member and eventually a winner out there.
He thinks he partly lost that self-belief because he got too caught up in his swing after turning pro in 2018 instead of just playing golf. His coach, James Oh, has helped with that, and he’s now more confident than ever heading into final stage.
“I’ve had a lot of success this fall and I’m just hoping to carry it into final stage, but definitely kind of an interesting last seven months for myself,” Griffin said.
An interesting last seven months for sure, but it was what was needed to show Griffin what those Highland Springs members knew all along: He’s a professional golfer not a loan officer.