OMAHA, Neb. – All Kristoffer Ventura ever wanted to do was be a card-carrying PGA TOUR member. But the elusive club just never quite seemed to want him back.
An emergency appendectomy before the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Countless failed attempts at Monday qualifiers, and a missed cut the only time he did manage to get through.
“It felt like, wow, the world really doesn’t want me to play on TOUR,” he recalled.
Maybe the world wants him after all.
The 24-year-old former Oklahoma State star will officially call himself a PGA TOUR member next season, as a 1-under 70 secured his card Sunday at the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Chevrolet. He entered the day with a one-shot lead over Lanto Griffin, and despite early troubles, managed to hang on for a two-stroke victory over Andres Gonzales and Chad Ramey.
He finished at 16-under 268 for the tournament. Gonzales and Ramey, who each carded a 4-under 67, tied for second at 14-under 270. Five others, including Griffin, came in at 11-under 273.
“You can say that the start of my career has been tough, and maybe I got the tough part out of the way,” Ventura said. “It just shows that if you keep working hard and believe 100 percent in what you do, great things are going to happen. I trusted that and look where I’m at right now. I’m really humbled.”
Ventura went from having conditional Korn Ferry Tour status with zero starts to a PGA TOUR member in a matter of only eight weeks. It began with a sponsor exemption into the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation last month, where a T3 secured his spot for remainder of the season. Three weeks later, he moved inside The 25 after coming out on top in a three-hole playoff at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.
After Sunday’s triumph at The Club at Indian Creek, he sits at No. 6 on the points list and has officially locked up his position for the 2019-20 campaign.
“Coming into this week I knew that was going to happen,” he said. “I didn’t tell very many people, but I had confidence in my game, and I had enough tournaments where I felt that it was really achievable. To win this week is incredible. I’m really proud.”
Despite the confidence, his latest win didn’t come without some early drama. He bogeyed the opening par-4 fourth, and Griffin poured in a long birdie putt on the ensuing hole to take a one-shot advantage. The deficit would soon grow to two at No. 4, but Griffin bogeyed the next while Ventura poured in an 18-footer from the fringe to deadlock the top of the leaderboard.
It was all Ventura from there. He stuck his approach shot to three feet at the par-3 eighth to regain the advantage, and after Griffin bogeyed No. 11, the lead surged to three when Ventura connected on a long birdie at the 13th. He played the final five holes at 1-over to secure the win.
“This course is probably one of the better courses that I’ve played,” he said. “It’s tough. You’ve got to hit great shots. It’s windy. You never know what’s going to happen. I told myself that even if I was two behind or three (shots) behind, I could still hang in there, and maybe at the end I’d have a chance to win.”
Ramey and Gonzales, meanwhile, both capped the best finishes of their respective seasons. Ramey—who has made all 21 starts this year—poured in a 51-foot eagle at the par-5 15th to surpass the estimated point total to secure a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, while Gonzales rose 86 spots to No. 67 and solidified starts for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve been out here for a while, played every tournament so far, so it will be nice to go home and take a little break,” said Ramey, who now sits at No. 32 in The 25. “Obviously, the ultimate goal is the PGA TOUR. I feel like I’ve hit on some stuff here in the last month or so, and I just think I’ve got to keep doing what’s working and don’t overthink it.”
For Gonzales, it was his best result since a T2 at the 2016 DAP Championship. It was only his seventh start of the year, as he had been making starts on past champion status prior to his successful week.
“It’s nice to start getting some starts and know I’m going to be in some fields,” he said. “It’s exciting for me. I’ve been playing pretty solid for most of the year, but I need to get up on this points list and try to get my PGA TOUR card back.”
* Sunday’s weather: Early thunderstorms, rain, high of 74, winds N/NE 7-14 mph.
* Final-round tee times were delayed three hours and 59 minutes due to inclement weather in the area.
* With his victory, Kristoffer Ventura has secured his PGA TOUR card for the 2019-20 season.
* Ventura became the 10th 54-leader/co-leader to go on and win this season.
* Ventura joined Robby Shelton and Xinjun Zhang as the only players to win twice this year. Three weeks ago, Ventura erased a three-stroke final-round deficit to win the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.
* Ventura finished the week third in scrambling, converting 18 of 23 up-and-downs.
* Andres Gonzales earned his best finish of the 2019 season and jumped 86 spots in The 25 to 67th.
* Chad Ramey, who finished T2, has surpassed the 375-point threshold estimated to secure players a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
* First-round leader Byron Meth finished T9 at 9-under 275 after a final-round 72.
* Omaha, Neb., native Scott Gutschewski finished the week in a tie for ninth after a final-round 67. At the inaugural Pinnacle Bank Championship in 2017, Gutschewski finished in a tie for second.
* Norfolk, Neb., native Luke Kluver finished the week 67th. Kluver converted an up-and-down on his final hole on Friday to advance to the weekend.
* This week’s purse is $600,000, with $108,000 going to the champion, Kristoffer Ventura. He also receives 500 Korn Ferry Tour points.
* Forty-seven Korn Ferry Tour winners competed in the field this week, combining for 70 victories.
* The par-4 11th hole (533 yards) ranked as the toughest hole on the course Sunday, playing to an average of 4.493.
* The par-5 seventh hole (559 yards) ranked as the easiest hole on Sunday. The hole played to an average of 4.328 and yielded five eagles and 41 birdies.