Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

All to Play For – The Fight for a PGA TOUR Card

All to Play For - The Competition to Earn a PGA TOUR Card

Justin Suh grew up idolizing his sister Hannah. She traveled to play competitive golf events from a young age; his first golf goal was to do the same. His first lessons were secondhand, as Hannah would relay key points from her instruction. Each day at the course had stakes, ranging from push-ups to spare change.

Getting Started

Competitive fire is in Suh’s DNA. So even after he clinched his first PGA TOUR card via the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List, he was just getting started. The California native won the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance to win the season-long standings and thereby clinch fully exempt status for the 2022-23 PGA TOUR, as well as spots in THE PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Open.

Suh’s banner Korn Ferry Tour season included 16 top-25 finishes in 24 starts, with eight top-15s in his final 10 starts. Rather than cruise to the finish line, he accelerated, displaying the form of a sparkling college career at the University of Southern California, where he spent time as the world’s top ranked amateur.

Standout Players

At Suh’s first professional event, the 2019 Travelers Championship, he fielded questions at a pre-tournament press conference alongside fellow college standouts Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff. Each earned a PGA TOUR card within three months. Suh missed at First Stage of Q-School that fall and spent time on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and the Monday qualifying circuit before earning Korn Ferry Tour status via Q-School in 2021.

Suh embraced his own path, and he proved on the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour that he’s primed to compete at the game’s highest level.

“Justin is one of the happiest people that I’ve met in my entire life,” said Suh’s longtime friend, Joseph Bramlett, who regained his TOUR card via the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Bramlett is nine years Suh’s elder; the two met at San Jose (Calif.) CC when Bramlett was a collegiate player at Stanford and Suh was in middle school. Suh considers Bramlett a “big brother.”

“I haven’t once seen him feel sorry for himself,” Bramlett said. “I haven’t once seen him dejected. The kid just shows up every day with a great attitude, and it’s impressive.”

Overcoming Adversity

The Suh-Bramlett contrast illustrates the Korn Ferry Tour’s inherent beauty, a mix of rising stars and wily veterans vying for spots at the game’s highest level. Suh is set for his first season on TOUR; Bramlett returns to the TOUR for a fifth campaign, in a career defined by overcoming adversity, as he was sidelined due to a severe back injury for the better part of five years. He visited with an estimated 15 spine surgeons but opted against surgery to preserve his chances of returning to the highest level. He lost his TOUR card this past summer but regained it with top- 25s in all three Finals events.

A First Tour Card

The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour marked the final season under the structure set in 2013, with 25 PGA TOUR cards awarded via the Regular Season and 25 cards earned via the threeevent Finals. Effective in 2023, the Korn Ferry Tour will award 30 TOUR cards via the seasonlong points race, in addition to 10 cards from the DP World Tour and five cards (and ties) through Q-School. The four-event Finals series will be included in the season-long points race, concluding in October at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

The Finals 25 era concluded in style, with Air Force Captain Kyle Westmoreland narrowly securing the No. 25 spot on the Finals Points List by a razor-thin margin, as Joey Garber made four consecutive closing birdies to finish in a five-way T12. If Garber had recorded a three-way T12 or better, he would have bumped Westmoreland for the final spot.

“I think I lost five years of my life,” said Westmoreland, 31, in the greenside ceremony after clinching his first TOUR card. “I think I lost my hair. It’s the craziest situation you can imagine.”

International Flair

The 2022-23 TOUR rookie class displays an international flair including China’s Carl Yuan, Argentina’s Augusto Núñez, Sweden’s Vincent Norrman and Australia’s Harrison Endycott. Redemption tales include Las Vegas native Taylor Montgomery, who finished No. 26 on each of the Regular Season and Finals standings in 2020-21, narrowly missing out on his first TOUR card not once but twice. Ben Griffin stepped away from the game to pursue a career as a mortgage loan officer before rediscovering his competitive drive, successfully navigating Q-School and proceeding to earn his first TOUR card.

Increasing Drama

Next season, the inherent drama will only grow. Twin brothers Pierceson and Parker Coody, who teamed on the Texas Longhorns’ 2022 NCAA Championship-winning squad, both hold 2023 Korn Ferry Tour membership. Pierceson won this summer’s Live and Work in Maine Open by five strokes after finishing atop the PGA TOUR University Velocity Global Ranking; Parker finished top-15 on PGA TOUR University, won on PGA TOUR Canada and advanced through Second Stage of Q-School.

Former Oregon standout Norman Xiong won the Wichita Open Benefitting KU Wichita Pediatrics as a Monday qualifier and holds full status into 2023. Precocious 20-year-old Akshay Bhatia, a former No. 1 junior, won The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay and looks to build on that success. Who will earn a TOUR card in 2023? The possibilities are endless. That’s the beauty of it!