PGA Tour University hopes to expand at end of second year
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When the PGA Tour University was announced in 2020, it aimed to provide top college players access to professional golf at the highest level. Two years later, executive director Brendan von Doehren believes the PGA Tour U is accomplishing that mission.
“I think we’re off to a good start,” von Doehren said ahead of Monday’s release of the Class of 2022 graduates.
The top five ranked players at the end of the last round of stroke play at NCAA Div. I Men’s Golf Championship will receive Korn Ferry Tour membership and will be exempt from all open and sold-out events until the end of the regular season. Players will also be exempt from the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament. Players who finish 6-15 in the standings earn a PGA Tour international tour membership and will be exempt from the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament.
“The first year was great,” von Doehren said. “Looking at the players who have signed up through the Korn Ferry Tour now and through the international tours, we’ve seen Trevor Werbylo, our first PGA Tour University alumnus to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, hopefully that he’ll get his card soon, and a lot of these Class of 2021 players are playing exceptionally well on the Korn Ferry Tour, so I think that just validates that the method of identification in how we rank these players reflects sort of where they’re going to be in professional golf.
Last year’s first graduates of the Korn Ferry Tour have each finished in the top 25 under their belt, but only two of the five – Davis Thompson and Kevin Yu – have made the top 10. Werbylo, who finished in the 6-15 range in 2021, won the Lake Charles Championship in March.
After seeing a graduate win on the Korn Ferry Tour, von Doehren said he hopes to continue seeing results from successful players, but the next thing to check off is a PGA Tour victory. Until then, he’ll be content with more junior and amateur players using the PGA Tour U as a fast-track to professional golf.
“Nothing really stands out in the sense of one specific thing,” he said of where he would like to see the PGA Tour U improve, while adding that his team is open to feedback. on everything from ranking method to eligibility. “We want to provide as many opportunities as possible to players out of college. Sometimes that’s a little easier said than done, but hopefully as we continue to improve the concept and to prove that they are good players at the top level, hopefully that bodes well for us to potentially grow down the line.
An eligibility change was made earlier this month, when the PGA Tour U announced that players who finish in the top 15 would not be eligible, “if such a player participates in a professional golf tournament that does not is not ranked by the Official World Golf Rankings, excluding events that have been previously approved by the PGA Tour.If a player is deemed ineligible or decides not to accept benefits, these will be offered to the player next eligible in the final standings.
Greg Norman said fans could play in his Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series, with the first event scheduled for June 9-11 in London. Currently, LIV Golf events do not offer OWGR points.
Talk of expansion might mean access for more male players, but it also challenges the female game. As it stands, there is no similar pipeline for female collegiate golfers on the LPGA and Epson Tours, although coaches across the country want one.
“We’ve had initial conversations with the LPGA, we’re obviously a men’s organization, but at the same time we’re neighbors in golf, we’re supportive of them, so if there’s interest now or whether it’s in the future account given their business model, we’re happy to share the secret sauce, so to speak,” von Doehren explained. “But right now, I think their business is in a bit of a different position with how players s “register from junior golf to college and from amateur golf to professional golf. It’s nothing we have jurisdiction over, but we’re happy to partner with the LPGA.”
Players staying the full four years in college was hugely important to von Doehren and his team, who noted that statistics showed the higher level players competed in college, the better their chances. to succeed at the highest level of golf.
“So for us, that was a founding principle,” von Doehren said. “I would say we’re not considering any change unless there are some drastic changes within the game of golf. I think it demonstrates that all of these top players have been around for four years and are good players at the top of the game.”