Former U. of Georgia golfer Joey Garber won Sunday’s Web.com Tour event in Raleigh, putting him in excellent position to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.
Garber, a Michigan native who has joined several other ex-Bulldogs as residents of St. Simons Island, is a rookie on the Web.com Tour, qualifying for the first time last year after graduating from UGA and turning pro in 2014.
The 26-year-old Garber shot 18-under 266 to win by one stroke over two players, one of them 2018 Web.com Tour winner Scott Langley, who resided on St. Simons Island until a recent move. Garber posted scores of 66-65-69-66, beginning the final round three shots off the lead in a tie for second.
Playing in the final group of the final round for the first time on the tour, Garber birdied four of his first seven holes to take the lead at the turn and remained in front throughout the final nine despite a pair of bogeys. Garber offset the bogeys with three birdies coming in, the last two at holes 15 and 16 to lock up his victory.
Garber enjoyed plenty of success on the back nine at TPC at Wakefield Plantation the entire week, shooting a 5-under 30 in the opening round and beginning his second round with seven birdies on the nine, shooting a 31 despite a bogey and a double bogey.
The victory moved Garber from 50th to sixth on the Web.com money list, virtually assuring him a spot in the top 25 at the end of the regular assure, which will earn him exempt status on the 2018-19 PGA Tour. He collected $117,000 for his victory to boost his season earnings to $168,068.
Garber began his season with four straight top-25 finishes including a pair of ties for eighth in Colombia and Louisiana, but in his last six starts prior to his win, had missed three cuts and did not have a finish higher than 33rd.
“To get a win on this tour is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Garber said after his victory. “And to come through today this early in the season in my first year out here and in my first time in the final group, it means everything to me.”
Garber turned pro in 2014 after graduating from UGA following an outstanding senior that earned him first team All-America honors and a No. 1 ranking in the country for a brief time. But he was unable to earn a spot on either the Web.com or PGA Tour until this season.
“I’d been close in the Web.com Tour qualifying tournament a few times and ended up just a couple of shots short twice,” Garber said. “So to get through this year was a huge jump for me. I did not want to do Monday qualifying again this year. I’ve done enough of those.”
Garber made his pro debut in the 2014 PGA Tour event in Hartford, but missed the cut. He did significantly better in his Web.com debut later that summer, tying for 10th in Boise, but did not make another cut in three more Web.com starts that year.
In 2015, Garber played primarily on the PGA Tour-affiliated Canadian Tour, but did not play especially well, and went the Monday qualifying route the next year. The highlight of his year was a tie for 13th in the PGA Tour event in Reno, one of four starts he made on the tour in 2016.
He also played his way into the Honda Classic in 2017 and shot 67 in the first round, but followed it with a 77 and missed the cut. He also missed the cut that year in both Web.com events he qualified for, but earned a spot on the tour for 2018 when he tied for 30th in the qualifying finals late in ’17.
Garber did not begin his college career in Athens, playing his freshman season at Michigan before transferring to UGA. He was slowed by shoulder surgery before emerging as one of the country’s top players his senior season.
Going into this week’s Web.com Tour stop in Chicago, Langley is second and Garber sixth on the money list, with Alpharetta’s Roberto Castro 13th and St. Simons resident Josh Teater 22nd. Castro, an All-American at Georgia Tech, placed second, T7, T5, T8 and T14 in five consecutive starts to move into the top 10 before taking the last two weeks off.