PGA TOUR U
Rebula returns to Auburn for fifth year
June 29, 2020
By Chris Richards, PGATOUR.COM
- June 29, 2020
- Jovan Rebula, who is currently No. 29 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, won the SEC individual title in 2019.
Last June, Jovan Rebula was competing in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He was playing practice rounds with his uncle, who happens to be World Golf Hall of Fame member Ernie Els, and he had a first-round tee time with fellow Auburn Tigers Jason Dufner and Patton Kizzire. Rebula’s future as a PGA TOUR player was very clear.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic shortened his senior season at Auburn. Instead of preparing for the NCAA Championships this spring, he took a month off and suddenly needed to decide whether to turn pro. And yet his path to the PGA TOUR had become clearer than ever before, and it’s all because of PGA TOUR University.
“This has been an incredible breakthrough. Whoever doesn’t want to take advantage of this opportunity, I think that’s the wrong move,” Rebula said of his decision to return to Auburn for a fifth year. “My plan was to stay just four years, and that was it. But then PGA TOUR University threw another curveball at me, and that made my decision really easy.”
The decision came after council with the coaches at Auburn, and also his uncle, who has been a lifelong mentor and encouraged him to move to the United States in the first place.
“He was the one that said you’ve got to go to college, get your degree and play golf at the same time,” said Rebula, who grew up in George, South Africa. “I think that was the whole idea, to get used to the living environment over here. His main thing for me was to play over here because this is ultimately where I wanted to play.”
This logic alone is a strong selling point for international players to play college golf in the States. With the addition of PGA TOUR University, Rebula thinks the decision is even easier for international players trying to figure out their best path to the PGA TOUR.
“It’s almost a no-brainer to come to college right now, with this opportunity that’s been created,” said Rebula, who is currently No. 29 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “I think it’s going to be a massive attraction for a lot of international students to come over to the States and play over here.”
In his four years at Auburn, Rebula has cemented himself as one of the program’s all-time greats. He won the SEC individual title in 2019 and is a three-time PING All-American, and he set the school’s single-season record with a 70.19 scoring average in 2019-2020.
Perhaps his most impressive victory came in the summer of 2018 when he won the British Amateur and became the first South African to win the title since 1966. As a result of that win, he earned invites to The Open Championship, Masters and U.S. Open, where he played alongside and prepared with his uncle.
“I honestly don’t know who’s more excited for my pro career, me or my uncle,” Rebula said. “He’s such a caring and loving guy at the end of the day. He wants the best for the people around him, and I’m fortunate to have someone like that to talk to and call any time.”
Rebula has handled the pressure before – he knew three invitations to majors were on the line at the British Am, after all – but he also knows the pressure will be different next spring when Korn Ferry Tour status may come down to a single putt.
“This is probably going to be a small little Q-School, if you want to call it that,” he said. “It’s impossible for a guy to say that that’s not going to be on his mind going into this next year, and going into the spring it’s definitely going to be on all of our minds. It’s going to be a matter of who’s going to handle the situation the best that’s going to get rewarded at the end of the day.”
Without a doubt, Rebula could have stuck to his plan and turned pro. But in a time when sponsor’s exemptions are limited and Monday Qualifying spots are as competitive as they’ve ever been, PGA TOUR University couldn’t have come at a better time for college seniors like Rebula.
“Having a year now when you can play golf in a college system where you feel comfortable playing, where you’re playing against your peers … I think this is an incredible way to start off a pro career.”