Whose lives changed Sunday at Korn Ferry Tour finale
Behind-the-scenes at final round of Pinnacle Bank Championship, as 25 TOUR cards awarded
August 15, 2022
By Kevin Prise , PGATOUR.COM
- Kevin Roy, 32, earned his first PGA TOUR card in dramatic fashion Sunday at the Pinnacle Bank Championship. (Andrew Wevers/PGA TOUR)
ELKHORN, Neb. – The crowd had exited the 18th green on a tranquil Sunday evening in Omaha. The champagne had cleared out, most players and families retiring to the after-party in the clubhouse at The Club at Indian Creek, or the hotel, or perhaps a local watering hole.
Kevin Roy lingered. Roy and his brother Kyle – two years older, longtime junior golf adversary – analyzed the 8-foot par putt that he had missed on the 72nd hole, some eight hours earlier. At the time, Roy wasn’t sure if the putt was a must-make to secure his first TOUR card. Playing in the day’s third threesome after a nine-bogey Saturday 73, too many permutations were in play. The scenarios were dizzying.
The math eventually indicated Roy did not need that par putt. Turns out, Roy needed just 73 or better on Sunday to secure his first TOUR card at age 32, in a career that has featured doubts, mini-tours, Q-School failures and even time in medical sales working for Kyle – “he was a good employee,” Kyle said.
Roy shot 3-under 68. The closing bogey proved inconsequential.
“Bogey for #TOURBound!” exclaimed Roy in the gloaming in Middle America. He pumped his fist a few times before making a triumphant exit, a lifetime in the making.
The Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season-ending Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna is a week unlike any other. A standard Korn Ferry Tour event has one winner. The Korn Ferry Tour finale has 25 winners.
Not many weeks in golf see players stick around upon missing the cut. The Korn Ferry Tour finale challenges that norm; of the 15 players who had crossed the fail-safe points threshold to secure a TOUR card into the week, eight missed the cut. They all stayed in Omaha for the weekend. Some enjoyed a libation or two Sunday afternoon. Some watched their friends compete. Some did both.
The reason: Sunday afternoon’s card ceremony, where each of the 25 players to earn a TOUR card via the Regular Season Eligibility Points List is called to the stage to accept a custom-stamped TOUR card. The card represents the PhD of professional golf, an indicator of proving one’s ability on merit to compete at the game’s highest level.
Whether a TOUR returner like Pinnacle Bank Championship winner Robby Shelton – whose eyes welled with tears when asked what his 8-year-old self would think of his mettle – or a first-timer like Roy, or Australia’s Harrison Endycott, whose father Brian flew in for the week, the emotion was palpable.
“It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of since I was 6, 5, 4 years old,” Endycott said. “I packed up everything to come over here, do what I needed to do, and I’m so stoked. It’s unbelievable. To drink champagne on the 18th green and get presented a TOUR card is something special. I’m stoked. It’s something that I’ve worked so hard for, and I’ve had a huge team around me, and I’m just amazed to be here.”
“You buy lottery tickets all your life, you can’t win a prize, and then one day you get a ticket and you win it,” reflected Brian, standing aside his beaming son. “That ticket came true. Harrison’s won his dream to get on the PGA TOUR. He’s done it.”
They'll remember this moment forever. pic.twitter.com/oEhlTt0BdC— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) August 14, 2022
Upon completing Sunday’s final round, Endycott was informed by his dad that the math had checked out and his spot inside The 25 was secure. No more numbers to crunch.
For other players closer to the bubble, it wasn’t as easy.
The Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season finale is known for endless scenarios in play across four distinctive bubbles – No. 25 for a TOUR card, No. 75 to maintain full Korn Ferry Tour status and gain access to the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals for another chance at a TOUR card, No. 85 to gain access to Final Stage of Q-School, and No. 100 to maintain conditional Korn Ferry Tour status and gain access to Second Stage.
Around The 25 bubble, players who ranked 22-26 into the Regular Season finale all made the cut. No. 22 Kevin Roy and No. 26 Brandon Harkins were separated by less than 18 points on the season-long Regular Season Eligibility Points List, approximately the equivalent of a 40th-place finish at the Pinnacle Bank Championship. How things might unfold on Sunday was anyone’s guess.
As play commenced Sunday morning, Anders Albertson was at home in Atlanta doing yard work. Having entered the week No. 21 on the Eligibility Points List, Albertson missed the cut and was admittedly skeptical of his chances of holding his spot in the top 25, especially considering the five players in closest pursuit would all accrue points in Omaha.
Roy, No. 22, teed off first at 6:59 a.m. local time. He needed a two-way T43 to pass Albertson, beginning the day in 55th place. He carded 68 to move inside the top 40, but knowing that position was not necessarily secure, as various players near the top of the leaderboard could also finish high to pass him.
"I hope it doesn't cost me."— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) August 14, 2022
Kevin Roy made bogey on No. 18.
He's currenly projected No. 24, but will have to wait and see if it holds. pic.twitter.com/SaLWPjPs0v
Harkins, No. 26, was next at 8:16 a.m. He needed a solo 30th to pass Albertson, beginning the day at T34. This mark would eventually prove crucial. A double bogey on No. 13 brought him to 2 over on the day, but he rallied with a birdie at 14 followed by an eagle at the par-5 15th.
A birdie try on 17 hung agonizingly on the lip, and he saved a mid-length par at 18 to post 70 and 6-under total, very much around the precipice of 30th to 35th place. His son ran onto the green to greet him. Two-and-a-half hours remained until his fate would be determined.
Albertson wasn’t watching the telecast; he was intermittingly checking the PGA TOUR app.
Norrman, No. 24, was playing two groups behind Harkins and also riding a roller coaster of emotions. The Sweden native and former candy store employee began the day at T29, needing a two-way T33 to pass Albertson. He countered a double bogey at No. 5 with three birdies on that nine, and he played the back nine in even par to card 70 for a 7-under total, one stroke ahead of Harkins. This clinched a higher spot than Harkins on the Eligibility Points List. His position to pass Albertson looked good but was not a lock, and he and Roy were separated in projected points by just fractions of a point, based on fluctuating positions and ties on the board.
Michael Kim, No. 25, played his way off the bubble with a final-round 64 for an eventual T5, comfortably passing Albertson. A former Haskins Award winner at Cal-Berkeley, Kim won the TOUR’s 2018 John Deere Classic but proceeded to suffer a severe slump where he made just one 36-hole cut on TOUR across a two-year period.
A grateful Kim couldn’t pinpoint a low point; he described it as one low valley. He pinpointed a T15 at the Panama Championship in February for instilling confidence, which built throughout the summer as he recorded 10 top-25s in his last 11 Korn Ferry Tour starts. He said regaining his card felt even better than earning his first card in 2015, considering the adversity. He expressed intent to never lose his TOUR card again.
Also moving off the bubble in definitive fashion was Ben Taylor, who began the week No. 23 and shared the 54-hole lead in Omaha. He cruised to a runner-up finish, eventually ranking No. 9 on the Eligibility Points List. The Englishman who earned his first TOUR card via the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Finals was on the wrong side of the bubble at last year’s Finals-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship, beginning that week at No. 25 but missing the cut and falling outside. He had also experienced bubble heartbreak on the No. 75 line in 2017, missing the cut at the Regular Season finale to necessitate a return to Q-School.
Taylor left nothing to chance this time around.
“I had a good omen into this week,” Taylor said. “I was 23, and I’m a big Michael Jordan fan, so that was pretty cool. I’ve been on the bubble many times; it’s nice to come out on top and have a good day. So it’s a huge relief.”
Fifteen players had clinched TOUR cards into the week, and England’s Harry Hall became the 16th with a made cut. His fiancée Jordan and dog Buster were greenside on No. 18 Saturday to deliver the news.
What does #TOURBound mean? Jordan had created a scrapbook with memorable photos and news clippings from Hall’s golf career. Hall leafed through the scrapbook upon signing his card where he touchingly reflected on what it meant to share this moment with his parents back home.
University of Florida alum Tyson Alexander secured the 17th card, a touchstone moment for the 12-year pro with golf in his blood – his grandpa Skip played on the 1949 and 1951 U.S. Ryder Cup teams, and his dad Buddy was the longtime men’s golf coach at Florida.
What does #TOURBound mean? Alexander’s longtime friend Jimmy Fitzpatrick said he would get a tattoo noting Alexander as a TOUR member if he earned his card. Saturday night in Omaha, he delivered on that promise.
What does #TOURBound mean? Kevin Yu, who clinched the 18th card, was at a loss for words upon receiving a video message from his Arizona State coach Matt Thurmond.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for a while,” said Yu after taking a minute to compose himself. “Twenty years is a long time.”
What does #TOURBound mean? Endycott’s dad flew in from Australia, his first trip to the United States in the COVID era, to share the moment with his son. Endycott’s mom passed away in 2012 after a battle with ovarian cancer, and he referenced throughout the week that he wished one more person was on hand to share the moment.
What does #TOURBound mean? No. 20 Trevor Cone deleted the PGA TOUR app from his phone early in tournament week and turned off notifications on Twitter and Facebook, striving to eliminate distractions and keep from temptations to crunch any numbers. With tunnel vision, he finished T34 to secure his spot – and was congratulated with a beer shower from good friends and fellow Korn Ferry Tour pros David Kocher, John VanDerLaan, and #TOURBound Ben Griffin upon completing his media obligations.
With 22 spots accounted for, the race came down to Roy, Norrman, Harkins and an off-site Albertson, who by this point had cracked a beer back in Atlanta.
Roy’s family, friends and caddie Jordan Weede parsed various scenarios as they enjoyed a drink or two in the clubhouse. Norrman sat in his car.
Contenders like Kevin Dougherty (needing a win), Will Gordon (solo third) and T.J. Vogel (solo eighth) threatened to crash the party. All finished just shy of said benchmarks. Norrman, Roy and Albertson secured the final three TOUR cards. Harkins finished two strokes shy of passing Albertson for the final spot.
As it turned out, the 25 players who held spots inside the top 25 on the Regular Season Eligibility Points List into the week were declared #TOURBound. Positions on the list changed, but the group did not.
The newest TOUR members relished the card ceremony, took studio shots against the backdrop of a neon sign, cracked beverages and shared plenty of laughs.Harrison Endycott poses with his dad Brian after securing his first PGA TOUR card. (James Gilbert/PGA TOUR)
The 18th green cleared, and the Roy family remained. The native of Syracuse, New York, played collegiately at Long Beach State and was a senior when a certain Xander Schauffele was a freshman. Roy remains close with Schauffele and his dad Stefan, who was following the action Sunday afternoon. Stefan was crunching the numbers and sent Roy a congratulatory text when the verdict was final.
There’s a tale of Roy introducing himself in a 2011-12 season-opening meeting as the team leader. Schauffele stood up and respectfully stated that he would be the scoring average leader.
Schauffele was wrong. Roy edged him by a tenth of a stroke, 72.42 to 72.52.
A decade later, the numbers worked in Roy’s favor once again – and he’ll join his old college teammate on the PGA TOUR.