Qualifying for the 2020 Korn Ferry (KF) Tour has begun, with six first stage qualifiers played this past week and six more scheduled for the next two weeks.
Those advancing beyond the first stage will compete in one of five second stage qualifiers in early November, with the final stage to be held in Winter Garden, Fla., Dec. 12-15.
Among the sites for the first stage qualifiers was the Landings Club in Savannah, which has hosted a KF (formerly Web.com) Tour event in 2018 and ’19. The Deer Creek course, one of six at the Landings, has been the site of the two tour events, with the Oakridge course hosting the first stage qualifier.
Eight golfers with Georgia ties were among 26 players advancing to the second stage. The low finisher among the eight was Jimmy Beck of Columbus, who played in college at Kennesaw State. Beck placed fourth at 18-under 270 with scores of 65-69-70-66. Beck played 13 events on the KF Tour this year, but managed just one top 25 finish and ended up 174th on the points list.
Beck won the 2014 Georgia Amateur at Pinetree CC, the home course for Kennesaw State, and was runner-up in the Georgia Open the next year, also at Pinetree. He tied for second in the 2017 Georgia Open at Ford Plantation. Early in his professional career, Beck recorded two runner-up finishes on the Latino America Tour, one each in his two seasons on that tour.
Charles Huntzinger of Duluth, who recently completed his college career at Penn State, shot 68-67-66-71 to place seventh at 272. Huntzinger won the 2016 Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills GC. Recent Mercer golfer Stanton Schorr of Columbus tied for 10th at 274 with scores of 70-69-66-69.
Augusta’s Dykes Harbin was outside the top 23 after 54 holes and needed a 66 the final day to advance. He played his first 10 holes in 7-under and shot a 64 tie for 14th at 275, two strokes under the total needed to advance. Harbin played his college golf at South Carolina.
Four Georgians advanced on the number at 11-under 277, tying for 21st. Blake Palmer of Dawsonville, who made six KF starts in 2019, shot a third round 65 with nine birdies and closed with a 67, playing the two back-nine par 5s in 3-under. Palmer was the 2016 Georgia Open runner-up. Barrett Waters of Dallas, the 2019 Georgia Open champion, opened with a 64 that included a double bogey, and shot 68 in the third round after slipping to a 74 the second day. He held onto his spot in the top 23 with a final round 71. Waters played in college at West Georgia.
Kameron Williams of Braselton, the 2018 conference Player of the Year as a senior at NAIA school Reinhardt, opened with scores of 68-67 before closing with back-to-back 71s. Williams was 3-under the last day through 17 holes without a bogey before taking a double bogey on the par-4 18th.
Recent UGA standout Lee McCoy also survived a shaky finish, making bogeys at holes 16 and 17 for a final round 72. McCoy, who lived in Clarkesville his senior year in high school and throughout his college career, was just outside the top 10 after scores of 70-67-68 the first three days. He has played on the KF Tour the last two years, finishing 83rd as a rookie in 2018 before struggling through all of 2019, finishing outside the top 150.
Among those finishing outside the top 23 was Steven Fisk of Stockbridge, a first team All-American this past season as a senior at Georgia Southern and a member of the victorious 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team. Fisk shot a third round 65 and came into the final day tied for 14th. He ran off four straight birdies on the opening nine, but bogeyed five of his last 10 holes, including the 18th, for a final round 72 and a 278 total, one shot outside the number to advance in a tie for 27th.
Kelby Burton of Evans, who lost a playoff to Waters in the 2019 Georgia Open, missed by two shots at 279. Burton, who played in college at Kennesaw State, was among the leaders after scores of 68-65 the first two days and was still in the top 10 after a third round 71. He was 1-under after 12 holes in the final round before back-to-back double bogeys dropped him to 30th place with a closing 75.
Jared O’Kelley of Canton, who also lost in the recent Georgia Open playoff, missed by three shots at 280. O’Kelley shot 65 in the second round with two eagles, but was only 1-under the other three days, shooting 71 in the final round. O’Kelley played in college at Cincinnati. Also coming up three shots short was veteran tour player Jay McLuen of Forsyth, who won the Georgia Open in 2011 and ’14. He closed with scores of 68 and 69, playing the par 5s in 5-under the final day, but was 2-over on the other 14 holes.
Also failing to advance was Jin Chung of Lawrenceville (T40, 282), former KF Tour players Mark Silvers of Savannah and Chase Parker of Augusta (T45, 283), recent UGA golfer Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners (T57, 289) and recent Kennesaw State golfer Chris Guglielmo of Cumming (T67, 296).
Former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin and ex-Auburn Tiger Michael Hebert, who both live in the Atlanta area and played the KF Tour this year, advanced from a qualifier in Mobile.
Griffin, who was 115th on the points list in his second season, shot 9-under 279 at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Magnolia Grove Crossings course, to tie for 17th. He posted scores of 69-73-67-70. Hebert finished outside the top 100 on the KF Tour for the first time in the last five years, ending up 124 on the points list. He was outside the top 22 after 54 holes, but shot a final round 67 with nine birdies to advance on the number at 280, tying for 20th. Hebert shot 66 the second day with no bogeys, but was a combined 3-over par in the first and third rounds.
Ryan Elmore of Dunwoody missed advancing by one shot at 281, tying for 25th after closing with scores of 69-67. Elmore, who played at Berry College and has been a Canadian Tour member the last two years, carded three eagles in the final round, but a bogey on his 16th hole knocked him out of the top 22.
Also failing to advance from the Mobile qualifier was Emerson Newsome of Dacula (T37, 283), former Georgia Southern golfer Spence Fulford (T42, 284), 2019 KF Tour member Emmanuel Kountakis of Augusta, who played in college at both Mercer and Augusta (T44, 285), former Georgia College golfer David Sullivan of Woodstock ((T47, 286), recent Georgia State golfer Max Herrmann (T53, 287), former Clayton State golfer Fredrik Lindblom of LaGrange (67, 294) and former Dalton State golfer Chase Jones of Chatsworth (71, 301).
The only other golfer with Georgia ties to advance was Alpharetta native and former Augusta State golfer Derek Chang, who placed fifth in a qualifier in Garland, Tex. Chang, who is living in Dallas, posted scores of 69-67-66-70 for a 16-under 272 total. He played on the Canadian Tour in 2019.
Alpharetta’s Zach Jaworski, who played at Vanderbilt, shot even par 288 in Maricopa, Az., tying for 37th, six shots outside the number to advance. Former Kennesaw State golfer Matt Nagy of Buena Vista came up just short of qualifying in San Jacinto, Cal., missing by two shots with a 6-under 282 total, tying for 31st. Nagy closed with scores of 67-69, carding seven birdies in each round, but finished outside the top 23 after opening with a 74.
More than 20 Georgians are competing this week in two qualifiers in Florida and one each in North Carolina and Nebraska.
A number of the Georgians competing in first stage qualifiers had to advance past pre-qualifiers, one of which was played at Brunswick CC after being delayed for a week by Hurricane Dorian. The low finishers among the Georgia contingent were Huntzinger and former UGA golfer Sam Straka of Valdosta, whose twin brother Sepp is playing on the PGA Tour. Both Huntzinger and Straka tied for fourth at 6-under 204 with final rounds of 65.
O’Kelley, Jones and Zach Caldwell finished in the top 10 in a pre-qualifier in Prattville, Al., and Williams was in the top 10 in Travelers Rest, S.C.
Among the players who failed to advance to the first stage was recent Georgia Amateur champion Jonathan Keppler of Marietta, who shot 219 at Brunswick CC to tie for 46th, two shots above the number to advance. The top 40 and ties moved on to first stage.