Larry Canning: Pro golf can be a brutal, scary, nerve-wracking experience – and that’s just for the spectators!

By Larry Canning

 

Yeah, I know… I’m always waffling on about the thin line that separates tour stars striding down a fairway with wall-to-wall fans cheering on an impending victory and another two years of play for fillions (it’s a combination of an adjective and an amount of money)… and the equally talented Pro’s  anxiously creeping down the fairway on the 18th in front of no-one but their terrified, hungry family members, trying to make one more par to achieve the dream of joining them.   

This year as the final Korn Ferry Tour event of what had become a marathon Covid ravaged two year stretch, had an Aussie named Brett Drewitt entering the final event at number 22 on the money list. The top 25 earn the golden invitation to the most exclusive party in the game.

Ironically, half way across the country a slightly higher profile Australian named Adam Scott was entering the final event on the big stage (the Wyndham Championship) clinging onto number 121 on with the top 125 earning a jumper for the $40 million Fed Ex Cup Playoffs.

Readers, I don’t remember being this nervous since I dropped my then girlfriend Sandra home… maybe a little pissed after a party… and spotted my future mother-in-law peering through the Venetian blinds.

“Readers, I don’t remember being this nervous since I dropped my then girlfriend Sandra home… maybe a little pissed after a party…”

Numbers can change pretty rapidly during one Korn Ferry event and with blokes outside the 25 now with absolutely nothing to lose, it was game on.

Brett Drewitt
Brett Drewitt

It started off badly for Dewitt with a two over 73 on Thursday leaving him in a tie for 104th and three shots outside the cut line. Even worse considering pretty much every player on numbers 26 to 30 scored better.

Somehow Brett was able to put the blinkers on and shoot a gutsy 67 on Friday, making the cut right on the number at 1-under and keeping himself in with a chance to protect his tenuous hold on a tour card. His pursuers weren’t making it easy though with Austin Smotherman (26) now at -6, Paul Hayley (27) -6, plus a couple of bolters from further down the list who could really bugger things up  for our mate. One in particular was a 39 year old veteran of the “Nearly made it” Tour named David Skinns who entered the last event on number 46. With a pair of 67’s Number 46 held the lead and a win would nudge Brett down another rung towards the dreaded number 26.

In a different state and a whole different scale, Adam Scott was fairing only slightly better at minus  4, 10 shots back and in a tie for 29th with the weekend to play.

To quote from the book of Corny Cliché’s Chapter 11 verse 5 – “One man’s loss is another man’s gain” was definitely the case for poor Taylor Montgomery (24) and Peter Uihlein (25) who both missed the cut meaning there was a tiny safety net for the young Aussie.

It was a brutal weekend to watch with every par, birdie or bogey by literally anyone creating a ripple effect through the guys near the edge. Drewett’s pair of 74’s on Saturday and Sunday did nothing to help his cause so his destiny was now in the hands of his pursuers.

One of which was Austin Smotherman (26) who had shot 72, 64, 68. This kid has oodles of talent and given a sniff on the big time could do some serious damage, however the final hurdle was clearly getting the better of him. It was painful to watch him steer, poke and prod his pill around on Sunday to be 3-over playing the last. He nervously nudged his five footer for bogey in on 18, which was just enough to lock down number 25 meaning now no one could remove Drewitt from number 24.

Now I knew Drewitt was safe my attention was focused on the leader’s story.   

David Skinns was on a mission, albeit a fragile one – nothing less than a win would gain his PGA Tour card for 2022. It was obvious he was feeling a long way from comfy but the 9 year Korn Ferry veteran was dodging bullets down the stretch better than Keanu Reeves!

His courageous rescues on the last three holes were inspiring and his long awaited journey finally had a happy ending. Another great yarn to come out of this event was seeing Curtis Thompson completing his comeback by gaining his Tour Card. After spending 6 years on the Korn Ferry Tour, Thompson was so disillusioned with playing, he gave it away to caddy for his higher profile sibling, Lexi. He now has the chance to shine his own light.

Watching this tournament, with all its stories unfold was nothing short of nerve wracking, fascinating, scary, brutal, difficult to watch but impossible to turn away.

“Watching this tournament, with all its stories unfold was nothing short of nerve wracking, fascinating, scary, brutal, difficult to watch but impossible to turn away”

By the way, Adam Scott shot 65, 64 on his weekend, lost in a play-off and cruised into the Fed Ex Cup as one of the favorites to take out the first Play-off event.

The level of play on the Korn Ferry Circuit is crazy high with some players actually having more success with victory against the likes of Keopka, Johnson and Rahm. Recent graduates, Keith Mitchell, Adam Long and J.T. Poston, never won on the Korn Ferry Tour but have since joined the winners circle on the PGA Tour.

Yes folks, it’s a fine line between Skinns and Scott and it’ll be intriguing to watch the new grads perform against the best!

I have a feeling Brett Dewitt will be a name Aussie fans will get to know a bit better next year.

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