The PGA Tour is a prestigious series of tournaments in professional golf. Most people assume that in order to play in the PGA Tour, or high-level events, players need to have gone through university or earned their way through several years of dedication. However, that is not always the case. Spots are not offered solely based on age and accolades alone. Several PGA Tour events offer four spots via an 18-hole qualifying event, which usually occurs on Monday of tournament week. Several players must advance through a pre-qualifier to earn a spot in the Monday qualifier, while others gain direct access to the Monday qualifier based on various merit-based categories.
A Monday qualifier is one-day stroke play tournament which awards top scorers places in that week’s PGA Tour event.
Billy Davis, a 17-year-old junior golf sensation and Auburn golf commit, recently played his way into a PGA Tour event at the World Wide Technology Championship, hosted at the Tiger Woods-designed El Cardonal Golf Course.
Coming off the Junior Ryder Cup team, the junior chose to enter the qualifier on a whim at the Enagic Golf Club at Eastlake in Chula Vista, California. “It was a course right by my house, and I played a pre-qualifier there before,” Davis said after his first round. “I was like, I don’t know about this, and my dad told me to do it. Got through the pre-qualifier. It was a good experience getting able to play with some Korn Ferry guys on Monday and happened to play well and have a good day.” Davis scored a 5-under 66 in the qualifier, then bested Korn Ferry Tour member RJ Manke in a 2-for-1 playoff to secure his spot. Seeing a 17-year-old on the field list in a PGA Tour event is rare, but is not impossible! Junior golfers are performing at a much higher level than ever before.
Davis is currently ranked No. 2 in the Rolex American Junior Golf Association standings, and made the semifinals of this summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur. In April, he won the AJGA’s Mayakoba Invitational. Twin sister of Billy Davis, Anna, is ranked No. 6 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. She won the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur at just 16 years old, a victory that led to a handful of major championship starts. The Davis twins competed together at this year’s Junior Ryder Cup, and are planning to continue playing together for the Auburn Tigers. Anna is committed to play on the Auburn women’s team starting in fall 2024.
There’s another junior who’s using a PGA tournament to make a name for himself. Oliver Betschart, a 15-year-old golf prodigy, earned his spot in this week’s Bermuda Championship through a 54-hole qualifier, posting a final-round 68 and surviving a competitor’s missed birdie try at the final hole to gain entry. Betschart is the youngest player to play in a PGA Tour sanctioned event in almost a decade. The previous was Tianlang Guan, who competed in a handful of events as a 14-year-old during the 2013 season. Along with Guan, the only other juniors to do so within the last hundred years were Michelle Wie West, Andy Zhang, and Lorens Chan. They were all younger than Betschart when they made their start on the PGA Tour.
Betschart plays a lot of golf on the Southern Texas PGA Junior Golf Tour, but calls Bermuda his home and Port Royal his home course. He said he’s played the qualifying course about “a thousand times,” and happily pointed out he made his first hole-in-one on the course when he was seven. “I’ve been now volunteering and caddying and also helping out the PGA staff over the years, so it hasn’t been a lot of time to just go out and watch, but when I have, just follow around the best players, just learn from their practice routines to what they’re—how long they’re taking with their caddies, just a bit of everything,” Betschart said.
To sum up why these two stories are great examples for aspiring junior golfers, you have to take into consideration the dedication of these players. Both Davis and Betschart made waves by taking a chance. They both had an open mindset, understanding that they may not come anywhere close to the top of the pack, but were willing to try their best. The possibilities are endless for young golfers looking to make a name for themselves. Finding the right tournaments and pushing boundaries may just be the way to grow as a golfer and individual.
Source(s): Gabrielle Herzig for Sports Illustrated and Joel Beall for Golf Digest
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