Friends Heinen, Ventura reach Final Stage
The two are the only players to advance from pre-qualifying to Whirlwind GC in Arizona
December 04, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- December 04, 2018
- The Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament takes place this week. (Kevin Prise/PGA TOUR)
There are only two golfers who have made it all the way from pre-qualifying to Final Stage – and they happen to be the closest of friends.
Nick Heinen had never really been around any Europeans before he befriended Norway’s Kristoffer Ventura during their freshman years at Oklahoma State University, but there was an immediate connection. The two remained close until earlier this year when Heinen wrapped up his time at OSU early and Venture went on to help lead the squad to the 2018 NCAA Championship.
Heinen Monday Qualified into two Web.com Tour events this summer while Ventura played a few of PGA TOUR and one Web.com Tour tournament as they both got ready for Q-School.
Together at pre-qualifying in Lantana, Texas, Ventura finished runner-up while Heinen made it through with two shots to spare. At First Stage, also in Texas, Ventura finished T8 at 15-under, while Heinen made it through on the number. The pair played at different Second Stage sites – with Ventura finishing T12 in McKinney, Texas while Heinen finished, again, on the number, in Plantation, Florida – but are reunited again for Final Stage this week in Arizona.
“So far I’m three for three,” says Heinen with a laugh.
This summer, Heinen says, he just tried to get used to all the travel involved with playing professional golf. It’s different in college, he explains, since coaches and support staff help you with everything you can so you can just concentrate on golf.
He says, as a native Oklahoman, he grew up playing golf and dreaming about going to Oklahoma State. The dream came true four years ago and says the whole experience was the most fun he’s had in his golfing life.
It helped, he says, in his transition to professional golf, considering how intense the golf program is at OSU.
“It really does a good job of preparing you for what pro golf is. At OSU, golf is pretty serious,” he says. “You’re a little more used to (the intensity) than most people are.”
And although Ventura is just as prepared – you could argue more prepared even, as he says his time under the gun during the NCAA Championship earlier this year was the most nervous golf-situation he’s ever been in – for the transition to professional golf, nothing could have got him ready for what happened just last week.
He had appendicitis. He had serious surgery. He’ll come into Final Stage having not swung a club at 100 percent for weeks.
“It was a bummer,” he says. “The one week all year I was looking forward to, I was working for it, and this happened. It was bad timing.”
Ventura says he woke up in the middle of the night and was in a lot of pain. He says he thought it wasn’t anything serious and tried to just “walk it off” the next day. But by the time midday rolled around, he realized he needed to go to the emergency room. He says he felt like passing out.
The surgery went well, he says, although he was worried about the recovery time. His doctor was confident he’ll be able to play Final Stage, and indeed, Ventura was going to try.
“Even if I was just chipping it down the fairway I would still try to beat a couple guys and see if I can do it,” he says. “Obviously the better you do, the better status you get.
“I told my girlfriend who was with me the whole time… I was for sure going to tee it up no matter what.”
On November 30th Ventura hit some wood shots and did some chipping and putting but as of that day he was still “a little scared” to hit a full shot with a driver.
Ventura admits, despite the high of winning the NCAA title this year, he hasn’t had time to look back on the team’s success as he went straight from school to a busy summer schedule, preparing for Q-School, and now recovering from surgery.
“Obviously it’s an amazing accomplishment and every time I go back, everyone is excited to talk about that week or take a picture with me or the team. It’s pretty special not only for us as players but for the whole school,” he says.
It’s not like OSU is short on big-time golf alums to celebrate, either.
The pair this week is joined at Final Stage by fellow OSU star Jordan Niebrugge (a winner on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada in 2018) and Ventura says he often tees it up with Morgan Hoffman, 2018 PGA TOUR winner Kevin Tway, and Rickie Fowler.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, he says. “That’s where I want to be, where those guys are. I’m just really fortunate to be part of the OSU family.”
And despite a laundry list of accomplishments for OSU golf existing already, Kristoffer Ventura and Nick Heinen are hoping to add another this week at Final Stage.
Kris Ventura discusses emergency surgery prior to Final Stage