After signing for a four-round total of 12-under at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, opening event of the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Scottie Scheffler, the clubhouse leader, signed autographs outside the scoring area while awaiting his fate.
When Brandon Hagy failed to hole out for eagle on the 72nd hole, Scheffler’s win became official, and he was told as much. .
Scheffler looked to the informant, smiled and uttered a quick response.
The sentiment was symbolic.
Win or lose, the Texas native carried a carefree, positive attitude throughout his rookie Korn Ferry Tour campaign, and the results fell along similar lines.
Scheffler, 23, recorded 10 top-10 finishes in 20 Korn Ferry Tour starts, with two wins and two runner-up finishes. The University of Texas alum won The 25 season-long Points List, as well as The Finals 25 Points List, to earn fully exempt PGA TOUR status for the 2019-20 season.
As Scheffler posed for photos with both The 25 and The Finals 25 trophies at the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, it had been less than a year since his Korn Ferry Tour journey began at First Stage of the Qualifying Tournament last fall, where he was paired alongside former longtime Dallas Cowboys quarterback and good friend Tony Romo for the first two rounds.
Scheffler comfortably advanced through First and Second Stages, then reached the penultimate hole of Final Stage right on the line to secure guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts via a top-40 finish.
He missed the green on each of the last two holes. He saved par both times.
If Scheffler had failed to get up-and-down on either occasion, his 2019 season could have looked entirely different, forcing him to rely on Monday qualifiers and potential sponsor’s exemptions to earn Korn Ferry Tour starts.
But he didn’t let it come to that. He got the job done, winning Player of the Year honors along the way, and is now fully exempt for his rookie TOUR season.
“Two very tough up-and-downs … I was able to do that, and it’s weird looking back at how small the margins are out here,” Scheffler said after winning the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. “Just little things like that are pretty crazy when you look back on them …”
The 2019 Korn Ferry Tour season brought its traditional mix of rookies and veterans securing PGA TOUR cards via The 25 and The Finals 25, with no shortage of feel-good moments.
One such scene: 19-year pro Scott Harrington securing his first TOUR card via a runner-up finish at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz, in his hometown of Portland, Ore.
Harrington, 38, made his first Korn Ferry Tour start in 2004, and has been on an up-and-down journey across various mini-tours and the Korn Ferry Tour for the better part of two decades.
In summer 2018, Harrington took a leave of absence from competitive golf to be home with his wife Jenn, who was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a second time. The Korn Ferry Tour community rallied in support of the Harringtons, with a GoFundMe campaign raising money to assist with medical bills and various other expenses as Scott was unable to generate income.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry learned about the Harringtons’ fight while competing in the 2018 Ellie Mae Classic, and donated $25,000 without having ever met Scott or Jenn.
With Jenn’s cancer in remission, Harrington returned to the Korn Ferry Tour for the 2019 season with an eye on The 25. A strong campaign culminated in a birdie on the 72nd hole at Pumpkin Ridge GC (Witch Hollow) in front of family, friends and fans, with the subsequent runner-up finish moving him inside The 25. He’ll be a TOUR rookie in 2019-20.
Other longtime pros to secure their first TOUR card via the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour include 16-year pro Vince Covello, 12-year pros Chris Baker and Michael Gligic, and nine-year pro Bo Hoag.
For Scheffler’s former college teammate Doug Ghim, a 2019 Korn Ferry Tour rookie, it came down to the 72nd hole at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Eight feet for par to secure his spot in The Finals 25. He drained it, unleashing a well-earned, Tiger-esque fist pump.
Differing paths to a desired destination. Scheffler and Ghim, friends since their junior golf days, will be 2019-20 TOUR rookies together.
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2019-May 2020 issue, which can be read here.