The new Korn Ferry Tour grads you need to know in 2021-22
September 13, 2021
By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- September 13, 2021
The Finals 25 PGA TOUR cards awarded at Korn Ferry Tour Championship
If Xander Schauffele’s correct, the deepest class in Korn Ferry Tour history is about to hit the PGA TOUR at this week’s Fortinet Championship. Schauffele’s theory comes from the fact that the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour class faced a season unlike any other – a 46-tournament, two-year season with a nearly three-month break in the middle of it.
Among the 50 cards, 28 are rookies – 19 from the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List and nine from the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Among those 28 rookies includes the 2020 NCAA Player of the Year (Sahith Theegala), multiple European Tour winners (Aaron Rai, Lucas Herbert, Kurt Kitayama, David Lipsky), a former college walk-on, a player with a 58 and 59 to his credit, and even one who quit professional golf for a year and caddied on the LPGA.
Here’s a sampling of the new Korn Ferry Tour grads to know this week and going forward as they begin their journey on the PGA TOUR.
As PGA TOUR member Keith Mitchell likes to tell it, Greyson Sigg, or “Pigeon” as he’s more affectionately known by Mitchell and his former Georgia teammates, gets out of bed hitting baby draws.
“He hits a five-yard draw with every single club throughout the bag, and he hits it dead straight and doesn’t try to do it. His natural game is perfect,” Mitchell said incredulously. “Not everybody wakes up and just hits it perfect like Greyson. A lot of people have to actually try to do that, but he just wakes up out of bed and hits a five-yard draw.”
That’s a skill that’s already proven handy for Sigg on the PGA TOUR, with five straight made cuts including a T9 at the 2021 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. On the Korn Ferry Tour, he tore it up, too, finishing second in the Points Standings with two wins.
“Greyson’s a stud. He stripes it, absolutely stripes it,” said former Georgia teammate Sepp Straka.
When Sigg goes low, he goes lower than about anyone else on the planet can. The 25-year-old was only the second player in Forme Tour history to post a sub-60 score with a final-round 59 at the 2019 Golf BC Championship. He went even lower in a round with friends that summer, shooting a 58.
HAYDEN BUCKLEYHayden Buckley and his girlfriend Feleysa Nguyen walk off the 18th green with their dog after the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing and Financing at Victoria National Golf Club. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)
In mid-February, Hayden Buckley found out 15 minutes before his tee time that he got in the field at the LECOM Suncoast Classic. He hit 10 balls before his round and went on to win four days later in a three-way playoff. Now, seven months later, Buckley is a PGA TOUR member for the first time after finishing seventh on the Korn Ferry Tour Finals Points Standings with two top-10s in three events.
The 25-year-old Mississippi native walked on at Missouri and left with the lowest scoring average in program history. It’s the same theme of proving people wrong at every level.
“He was that kid with a chip on his shoulder,” said Mizzou coach Mark Leroux. “He knew what he wanted to do was to play professional golf, and he was going to do whatever it took to get there.”
Buckley, who likes to bring his guitar with him on the road, turned pro in 2018 and won on the Forme Tour in 2019 before earning Korn Ferry Tour status. He only has three career PGA TOUR starts at this point, but it’s the consistent growth of his game at every level that leaves no ceiling at the next level.
Arguably the best story among all the rookies, Justin Lower, an 11th-year pro, has experienced the entire gamut of heartbreak and disappointment in professional golf. He’s gone to Q-School six times. He’s played the mini-tours for years, grinding to keep the dream alive. In 2018, he missed his PGA TOUR card by a single shot after missing an 8-foot on the 72nd hole but still found the class through disappointment to find his good buddy, Jim Knous who got in off his missed putt, to congratulate him on his TOUR card. This season, he lost the 54-hole lead at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation and finished just shy of the top 25 at 30th on the Regular Season Points Standings.
But there is zero quit in Justin Lower. The 32-year-old finally got redemption and achieved his dream at the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, getting up-and-down from 30 yards on the 72nd hole to secure TOUR membership for the first time by a single shot with a T15 finish.
For anyone looking for a rookie to cheer for, there’s no one more deserving than Lower, who also was the 2010 NAIA player of the year.
CURTIS THOMPSONCurtis Thompson looks on from the 16th Tee during the first round of the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr. Pepper at Highland Spring Country Club. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Curtis Thompson still isn’t sure what happened but after three years on the Korn Ferry Tour in which he led the Tour in driving distance from 2015-2017, he lost his game.
“I tried to play but just never had it,” Thompson recalls.
So, he walked away at the end of 2018 and spent the next year thinking he’d never play competitive golf again. He comes from a family of golfers – sister, Lexi, is a star on the LPGA and brother, Nicholas, has played on the PGA TOUR – and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next, so he spent some time caddying to clear his head before friends convinced him that he wasn’t done yet. He even caddied for Lexi for four events and made $70,000, which was enough to help him keep the dream alive financially.
The time away to reset turned out to be all he needed to engineer the ultimate comeback. After a year away from competitive golf, he won final stage of Q-School that fall. Now, nearly two years later, he’s heading to the PGA TOUR for the first time after finishing 23rd on the combined Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings (Regular Season and KFT Finals).
Even more impressive than perhaps his work on the golf course is over the last two years, Thompson also went back to LSU and finished up the requirements he needed to get his college degree.
Josh Creel, 31, will become only the second PGA TOUR member ever from Wyoming. The Cheyenne native was the 2012 Division II Player of the Year at Central Oklahoma but didn’t secure fully exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour until 2019. In 2019, he missed an 8-footer in Utah for a win and his PGA TOUR card.
But Creel got redemption over the last four months. Entering late June outside of the top 100 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points standings and facing a return to Q-School, the 31-year-old posted a runner-up and a win to secure entry into the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and then posted back-to-back top-10s to close out the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and secure a PGA TOUR card for the first time.
“It means everything. It’s a big check off the list,” Creel said. “It’s obviously not the end goal. You want to stay out there for as long as you can, but it’s a big steppingstone for us, so I’m excited.”
Creel and his wife are expecting their first child, a baby boy named Colt, in January.
Taylor Moore, 28, turned pro in 2016 and made it look easy early on. He won almost immediately on the Forme Tour and finished third on the Order of Merit. He nearly got his TOUR card in 2017 and 2018 with 38th- and 37th-place finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour Points standings, respectively. But after making four starts in 2019, Moore’s lung collapsed, and he was out for more than three months.
When he returned, the scar tissue in his chest and back from his surgery was causing back issues and tightness in his swing and he struggled to regain form the rest of 2019 and most of 2020. Desperate for a fix in the offseason of 2020, he tried neural injection therapy. It worked and it’s been off to the races ever since. In 20 starts in 2021, he posted 12 top-10s including his first career Korn Ferry Tour win at the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS.
Now, the former Arkansas Razorback is TOUR-bound for the first time and set to make his first TOUR start since 2017.
NICK HARDYNick Hardy watches play on the second hole during the second round of the Korn Ferry Tours Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna at The Club at Indian Creek. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
As a child, Hardy wrote an essay saying one day his dream was to be a PGA TOUR player. That dream is now a reality as the 25-year-old secured TOUR status for the first time this season.
While Hardy may be a rookie on the PGA TOUR, he’s looked like a future TOUR player for a while. The former University of Illinois product made the cut at the 2015 U.S. Open as a 19-year-old and was a two-time Big 10 Champion and First-Team All-American before turning pro in 2018.
After a disappointing year in 2019, Hardy secured full status on the Korn Ferry Tour with a fifth-place finish at the final stage of Q-School, and he’s taken advantage with a 21st-place on the combined Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings. Overall, although he didn’t win, he was one of the more consistent players with 34 made cuts in 41 starts including 10 top-10s.
“I just feel like I’m ready (for the PGA TOUR),” Hardy said. “I really do believe I belong.”
Hardy had some success on TOUR in 2021, too, advancing through Monday qualifiers at both the Sony Open in Hawaii and Waste Management Phoenix Open on his way to T14 and T42 finish at each.
Thanks to the PGA TOUR’s new rule allowing the current top 10 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings to play in opposite field events, Lee Hodges should feel quite comfortable in his first start as a rookie at the Fortinet Championship. Hodges has made his last four cuts on TOUR, including top-15s at both the Puerto Rico Open (T13) and Barracuda Championship (T11).
After turning pro in 2018, the former University of Alabama product cut his teeth on the Forme Tour in 2018 with a 15th-place finish and then has enjoyed a steady climb on the Korn Ferry Tour. He finished 73rd in the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings after getting up-and-down on the 72nd hole for birdie to keep his job at the regular-season finale in 2019.
That proved a prelude to an even better second and third year on the Korn Ferry Tour as Hodges won the 2020 WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz and made 32 of 37 cuts on his way to an eighth-place finish on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings.
Seventh-year pro Taylor Pendrith fought through palm, wrist and shoulder injuries and having to drop back down to the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada before securing his PGA TOUR card for the first time. Long one of the longest hitters in professional golf, Pendrith secured Korn Ferry Tour membership for the first time in 2016 after finishing third on the Forme Tour Order of Merit. The Ontario, Canada, native finished 103rd in the Points Standings in 2016 and it took three years largely on the Forme Tour to work his way back after enduring a freak palm injury that made it difficult to hold a club.
Pendrith, who didn’t start golf until he was a teenager, won twice on the Forme Tour in 2019 to regain Korn Ferry Tour status and hasn’t slowed down since, with four runners-up in 37 starts on his way to a fifth-place finish on the Regular Season Points Standings.
Pendrith played at Kent State with fellow PGA TOUR members Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners and was introduced to his wife, Meg, through Conners and his wife.
CHAD RAMEYChad Ramey hugs his father and caddie Stanley Ramey on the 18th green after winning the Live And Work In Maine Open held at Falmouth Country Club. (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
No player on the Korn Ferry Tour was more consistent this season than Chad Ramey. The 29-year-old made his last 26 cuts with 11 top-10s, including a win and four other top-threes. In June, he won the Live in Maine Open for his first win since his junior year of college. Making that win even more special was his father, Stanley, who is a golf course superintendent and taught him the game, was on the bag.
Ramey, who left Mississippi State with the lowest scoring average in program history, turned pro in 2014 and spent a couple years on the mini-tours before gaining Korn Ferry Tour status for the first time in 2018. It’s been a steady climb since from 94th in 2018 to fourth on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings in 2021.
Ramey grew up in the small town of Fulton, Mississippi, which is home to less than 4,000 people, with LPGA pro Ally Ewing.
After helping his team win the 2019 NCAA Championship at Stanford, Brandon Wu qualified for both the U.S. Open (T35) and Open Championship (MC) before representing the United States in that year’s Walker Cup. He made the cut and was forced to miss Stanford’s graduation but received his Stanford degree as he came off the 18th green. His professional career looked to be off to the races, but he only gained conditional status at final stage of Q-School. Thanks to the three-month COVID break and conditional status, his first Korn Ferry Tour start in 2020 didn’t come until late July, where he finished T9 to set off a run to the PGA TOUR.
Wu went on to win the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Championship in his sixth start six weeks later and secured his TOUR card for the first time with a 16th-place finish on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings.
In February of this year, Wu, playing off top-10 status on the Korn Ferry Tour, held the 36-hole lead at the Puerto Rico Open, an opposite field event, on his way to a T7 finish.