Reports For Golf Global

Whose lives changed at Korn Ferry Tour Q-School




Willie Mack III paused. He had the words to answer the query, but the journey came flooding back to him in an instant. Its weight was overpowering.
 
“What does it mean to have your family here?”
 
Mack’s parents, Michelle and Willie Jr., brother Alex and sister Imani were among those in Monday’s gallery at Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Mack, 34, woke up Monday knowing one good round would change his life. He entered the final round at The Landings Club in a tie for 41st, with the top 40 and ties representing the all-important benchmark for guaranteed starts on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour. He held conditional status at minimum, but top 40 means the chance to set a schedule.
 
For a player who slept in his car for a year-and-a-half, who lost a significant portion of his belongings when his car burst into flames on Interstate 4, whose parents put their house into foreclosure twice to support his golf dreams, Monday meant a chance to validate the sacrifices in the most tangible of ways.
 
Mack delivered with a 5-under 66 at The Landings Club (Marshwood), finishing T12 at 7-under total. He earned guaranteed starts with four strokes to spare, two weeks after earning Korn Ferry Tour membership with a 4-foot par on the final hole at Second Stage, which he described as the most pivotal putt of his career.
 
Mack’s closing 66 in coastal Georgia allowed him to take the afternoon off from leaderboard-watching. He could enjoy the moment with his family. So the Michigan native was forgiven for taking a few seconds to pause when posed that all-encompassing question. He had earned the right.
 
And his family could provide some context for him.
 
“I’ve always told him, ‘If you believe in something, in your dreams, just never give up,’” said Mack’s dad Willie Jr. “And he hasn’t. I’m very proud; his mother is proud. He’s had a journey. Sleeping in his car for a year-and-a-half, putting my house in foreclosure twice … you don’t mind doing those things for your child when they’re doing something positive.
 
“And he was doing something great for himself.”
 
Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament represents a crossroads in professional golf. It’s the culmination of a three-month competition that commences at pre-qualifying in August, then to First Stage in September, and to Second Stage in October before culminating at Final Stage in Savannah.
 
Some like medalist Bo Hoag, who spent the last three seasons on the PGA TOUR, held high-level conditional status before the week, likely to gain access to at least a few events, but came to Savannah with the intent of improving job security. Hoag did just that with a 14-under total, one stroke clear of globetrotting Chan Kim, 32, who has won seven times on the Japan Golf Tour but lives in Arizona and is ready to commit to a full-time U.S. schedule in chase of his first TOUR card.
 
Then there are players fresh out of college, competing at Final Stage in their first true job interview of sorts.
 
Chris Gotterup passed the test with flying colors. The reigning Fred Haskins Award winner gained Final Stage access via his position on this year’s Korn Ferry Tour Finals standings – he had gained Finals access via non-member FedExCup points this summer on TOUR.
 
Gotterup, who played four years collegiately at Rutgers before transferring to the University of Oklahoma for his fifth season, surged up the board at Final Stage with a third-round 64, en route to a T3 finish at 12 under.
 
By virtue of finishing within Nos. 2-10 and ties at Final Stage, Gotterup earned 12 guaranteed starts on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour. His scattershot first summer as a pro included some TOUR starts, the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and some appreciative unplug time at home in New Jersey – including some time at the beach without his phone.
 
He plugged back in for Final Stage and can plan out a schedule on the Korn Ferry Tour, which conveniently begins with two beachside events in the Bahamas.
 
Some with such a sparkling collegiate ranking might fall into the trap of taking the Q-School process for granted. Gotterup took the opposite viewpoint. He’s grateful for the people who have believed in him throughout his golf journey, and he wants to prove them right.
 
Q-School is just the first step, but Gotterup more than held up his end of the bargain.
 
“I’ve always had people tell me, ‘You’re going to do great; you’re going to do this.’ And then, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah I’m sure, whatever … to keep building on stuff like that, to play well at Rutgers, to have people at Oklahoma believe in me, and then this summer have all people on my team believe in me, it’s nice to play well for them and me,” Gotterup said after Monday’s final round in Savannah.
 
“I think the thing that sticks with me most … (Rutgers) coach (Rob) Shutte and I had so many meetings at Rutgers, and he just told me that he would be pissed if I didn’t try my best and give it everything I had, because he knew what I had, what I was capable of. I took that to heart. You don’t really realize if you’re good at something until you do some stuff, and obviously I have a long ways to go for what I’m looking for, but just to play well and do things that I probably haven’t dreamed of until they happen … it’s just been fun.
 
“I try not to look too far ahead and I just try to keep building and what I’m doing, but it’s been pretty fun so far.”
 
Several other pros had fun Monday in securing guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts.
 
The bubble around the top 40 is always dramatic, and this year was no different. Forty-four players finished the week at 3 under or better, with finishers Nos. 11-40 and ties securing eight guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts in 2023.
 
Alabama alum Wilson Furr didn’t feel he had his best stuff Monday, but he grinded out an even-par 71 to finish on the number at 3 under. At his time of finish, he was not quite sure it would be enough; he likened the Q-School process to “trying to beat a boss” in a video game. The numbers shook out, and Furr prevailed over the metaphorical boss.
 
Cal State-Chico alum Alistair Docherty made a smooth up-and-down on the final hole to post 4-under total, one inside the number, then grew emotional as he reflected on the journey shared with his friend and longtime caddie Sam.
 
Atlanta-area native Ryan Elmore teared up when looking over to his family, who gathered around to record his post-round media session after closing with a 67 for a 5-under total, earning guaranteed starts with two strokes to spare. Sweden native Tim Widing played his final eight in 4 under to earn starts with a stroke to spare, then shared an emotional moment with his fiancée via FaceTime.
 
Mack was among those to accomplish the week’s mission, a memorable step on his long and winding journey. After a moment of reflection, he offered his response.
 
“It’s special that they can come and watch me,” Mack said. “It’s been a long road, but I never kept losing faith. I never gave up.
 
“Just out there grinding on mini-tours is rough. I’ve made some money out there and played well, but to see it all come together, it’s special.”
 
He departed the podium and headed straight for his family. They shared a group hug, a lifetime in the making.

 

By PGA Tour

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