by Ken MacLeod
One, these guys are really, really good. We will soon be watching many of them play on Sundays on the PGA Tour, as Korn Ferry Tour alums won 78.7 percent of PGA Tour events last year (37 of 47), including three of four majors.
Guessing which player will be the next Scottie Scheffler is half the fun.
Two, whether you’re a Cowboy, Sooner, Golden Eagle or just a fan of Oklahoma golf, the local angles are plentiful. You will be able to witness rising stars at the top of their games on Jimmie Austin, a course and facility that has undergone dramatic improvements in every aspect over the past two decades.
One of the changes in PGA Tour qualifying for 2024 and beyond is now the Korn Ferry Tour’s top 30 qualifiers will receive PGA Tour cards. Previously the top 25 on the regular season and the top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals received cards. The points race was heating up at press time in early June with several Oklahomans in great shape to be on the PGA Tour next year.
Inside the top 30 on June 15 were Oak Tree National member and former Oklahoma Christian golfer Rhein Gibson, who won the Astara Golf Championship in Bogata, Columbia. Gibson was in ninth place and should be able to hold to earn his third trip to the PGA Tour for the 37-year-old native of Australia.
In good shape to earn their cards are former Oklahoma State golfer Kevin Dougherty (16th) and former Sooner from Oklahoma City, Logan McAllister (17th). Just outside the top 30 at this writing was former Sooner Chris Gotterup (37). Former Cowboy Kris Ventura (60), former Sooner Quade Cummins (100), Oak Tree member Josh Creel (87), former Sooners Grant Hirschman (122) and Michael Gellerman (125), former OSU and Jenks native Brendon Jelley (134) were among those who could move up with some strong finishes over the second half of the season, particularly during the Compliance Solutions Championship.
Jelley, the three-time Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Champion (2014, 2015, 2017), earned conditional status at last year’s PGA Tour Qualifying School, missing full exempt status by a shot. After missing the cut in his first two events in Panama and Bogota, he made the cut in five of his next six events, with his best finish a tie for 27th in Huntsville, Ala. He was often the first or second alternate to get in those events, missing out on several, but at the next reshuffle should be in good shape to play the remainder of the year with decent results.
It’s been five years of dedicated work and mini-tour grind since Jelley graduated from OSU in 2018. His next goal is to use his opportunities this year to move into the top 75 and secure his full Korn Ferry Tour card for 2024. Next would be to win or have high enough finishes to join the pursuit of the top 30 and a PGA Tour card in earnest.
“It’s taken me five years to get out here, but good golf travels and I’m playing well right now,” Jelley said. “Some guys like Viktor (Hovland) can just skip a lot of steps but for most of us it’s a process. I think if I play well, I’ll have a chance to win. It took a few events to figure it out and gain some traction.
“I knew I belonged, but to see it come to fruition reaffirmed everything I believe in. A lot of what I learned through mini-tour golf is that you can’t get caught up in one shot or one round or one tournament. You’ve got to make it enjoyable and realize that one shot in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter that much.”
Jelley, who ranks fourth on the KFT in greens in regulation, said his ball striking is good, he is just looking to clean up some shots around the green and get a little more consistency going with his putter.
Life on the Korn Ferry Tour, while a huge step up from the mini-tours, is still challenging. His winnings of $20,069 through eight events scarcely cover travel. Having a full-time caddie is a luxury he can’t afford. His father Steve has caddied twice and he’s picked up caddies at other stops. You learn to depend on yourself in those circumstances.
“Everyone is bunched together on this tour and everyone is so good,” Jelley said. “I know if and when I get to the next level I’ll be ready. I know where I need to be with my game.”
NOTES: With a KFT event already in Wichita, the PGA South Central section will double the number of Monday qualifiers it hosts. The Monday qualifiers for the Compliance Solutions Championship are June 19 at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City and at The Territory in Duncan.
Section Executive Director Brian Davis said the section can make around $30k from each qualifier depending on entries.
• The tournament is open to the public on Thursday through Sunday. Tickets are $35 for a single day and $70 for a weekly pass. Tickets for the corporate hospitality area are $175 and $600. Tickets and volunteer info are available here. All parking will be at the Lloyd Noble Center with free shuttles provided from there to the course.
There will be a high school pro-am on Monday (June 19) and a pro-am involving players on Wednesday (June 21). Tournament action begins at 7:05 a.m. Thursday, June 22.
Go to www.kornferrytour.com to see all tournament results, latest points leaders, stats and much more.