By Jim Ellis
Special to Golf Oklahoma
MIAMI – A month-long break from competition on the Adams Pro Tour may have come at a good time for Jordan Russell.
The former Texas A&M Aggie leads the APT in winnings heading into the Buffalo Run Casino Classic that runs Wednesday through Saturday at Peoria Ridge Golf Course.
He tied for fourth in the Southwest Louisiana Open, had a T8 in the Victoria (Texas) Open and had a T27 in the Fakier Open before winning the Merrill Lynch Open in April with a three-round 205, shooting rounds of 69, 66 and 70.
But he sputtered into the break, missing the cut at the Gateway Buick GMC Classic May 18-21 in Garland, Texas, after shooting rounds of 77 and 70.
â€œI just wore myself out,â€ Russell said prior to the Tuesday afternoon pro-am tournament. â€œI had played the pre-qualifier for the Nelson (the PGA Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas) and a U.S. Open qualifier (also in Dallas) all in a four-day span. I didnâ€™t do a good job of planning that week.â€
Russell rolled into Miami Tuesday morning after playing in a qualifier for the Texas State Open on Monday.
â€œWeâ€™ve had a couple weeks off and it was probably good for me,â€ Russell said. â€œI needed to practice a little bit because I played so much, so many weeks in a row. You donâ€™t get to do too much on the road, not really places to practice since you are playing. You are usually tired after a round, so it was good for me.â€
Russell was a member of the Aggiesâ€™ 2012 Big 12 championship team.
A&M also won an NCAA title in 2009, but Russell wasnâ€™t one of the top five bags.
The previous two years, he played on the PGA Latin America Tour.
â€œIt was a good learning experience,â€ he said. â€œI enjoyed playing down there and getting to see other parts of the world.â€
In 2014, he was 45th in the Order of Merit rankings thanks to two top 10 and five top 25 finishes.
Then in 2015, he finished 96th with $8,195 in earnings. He made five cuts and finished in the top 25 twice.
â€œItâ€™s a great tour,â€ Russell said. â€œThey play really good golf courses and itâ€™s run really well.â€
Golf is booming in Central and South America, Russell said.
â€œItâ€™s getting big,â€ he said. â€œMexico has a ton of players. Argentina and Columbia are the big countries down there. You see a bunch of guys from Mexico on the PGA Tour right now. Itâ€™s growing pretty good.â€
He tried the Canadian PGA tour after graduating and played in four Web.com Tour events in 2014.
This is the third time Russell has played in the Buffalo Run Casino Classic.
He missed the cut in 2014 and finished a tie for 34th in 2013 with a 3-under 285.
â€œI like the course a lot,â€ he said. â€œI think itâ€™s awesome. It can get really windy, which is good to help keep the scores normal. The greens are phenomenal; I heard its in unbelievable shape. I hear there is some nasty stuff out there off the fairways.â€
Just $4,139.16 separates Russell from Franklin Corpening, who is fourth among money winners.
Russell has $33,690.83 in five events this season while Scott Kelly is second at $31,542.38, Andrew Presley third at $29,990 and Corpening has earned $29,551.67.
Russell, Presley and Corpening each have a win under their belt and Kelly has placed second in two of his four tournaments.
â€œThere are a lot of good players out here,â€ Russell said. â€œSome guys have gotten off to good starts. There are so many guys playing now with bigger purses that they are getting a lot of guys that normally would have gone to Canada or South America. You can just stay here because the competition is good.â€
There are 144 players on hand for the tournament, which features a $20,000 first-place purse.
The field will be cut after 36 holes to the top 35 percent of the starting field, including ties.
There will be 15 Oklahomans in the field include Taylor Artman, Norman; Cameron Bishop, Tulsa; Austin Bowman, Pryor; Stephen Carney, Tulsa; Andrew Green, Oklahoma City; Tyler Hargus, Shawnee; Mike Higgins, Oklahoma City; Matt Mabrey, Tulsa; Cameron Meyers, Edmond; Jackson Ogle, Edmond; Jacob Simon, Oklahoma City; Hunter Sparks, Oklahoma City; Colton Staggs, Jenks; Trent Whitekiller, Sallisaw, and Chris Worrell, Enid.
Griffin Locke of Miami is the only amateur who has qualified.