After toiling for years in professional golf’s minor leagues, Suwanee resident David Skinns is close to earning his first shot at a trip to the majors.
Skinns, who spent much of his professional career on the now defunct Hooters Tour, has been a full-time Web.com Tour member the last two years after two earlier seasons with limited status.
After barely retaining his exempt status for the 2018 season, Skinns seemed headed for another stint at Q-school, standing 132nd on the money list with only five tournaments remaining in the regular season.
Last year, Skinns waited until the final event on the regular season schedule to preserve his exempt status for 2018, finishing second in an event in Portland to secure his playing privileges for this year.
This time, Skinns did not wait quite as long and managed to improve on his runner-up finish to close out the 2017 schedule. Playing his last four holes Sunday in 4-under, Skinns won a final round duel that included former Georgia Tech star Roberto Castro to score his first Web.com victory and put himself in position to possibly earn a spot on the 2018-19 PGA Tour.
Skinns, a native of England who played his college golf at Tennessee, played a number of years on the Hooters Tour after turning pro in 2006, winning seven times and earning Player of the Year honors in 2008.
It took him until 2012 to earn any status on the Web.com Tour, and he was only able to get into eight tournaments, finishing the year 125th on the money list. He made it back to the tour in 2014, making 11 starts and finishing 101st in earnings.
Skinns finally earned exempt status on the Web.com Tour in 2017, but after a mostly unsuccessful season, was well outside top 75 status on the money list needed to remain on the tour with just one tournament remaining,
Thanks to a final round 64 in Portland, Skinns tied for second and collected a check for $52,800, vaulting him inside the top 60 and giving him a spot in the Finals Series with a chance to earn one of 25 spots on the PGA Tour.
In the second of the four-tournament series, Skinns was in the top 10 after 36 holes in Boise, when he got a call that his wife was about to go into premature labor. Even with a possible shot at a PGA Tour card, Skinns immediately withdrew from the tournament and headed home. He also missed the next week’s tournament, all but assuring that he was not going to make it to the PGA Tour.
Back on the Web.com Tour for a second full season, Skinns struggled at the outset of 2018, missing eight of his first 10 cuts with two respectable finishes in the tournaments in which he made it past 36 holes. The last of his eight missed cuts came in Knoxville, where he spent his college years. He made four of his next six cuts after that, but with a tie for 30th his best finish, came into last week’s event in Omaha a distant 132nd on the money list.
Skinns opened last week’s tournament with a 68, then moved into contention with eagles on two of the three par 5s on the Omaha course. A 3-under 69 the next day included birdies on all three par 5s and kept him two shots off the lead heading to the final round and a spot in the final group off the first tee.
With birdies on both front nine par 5s, Skinns made the turn in 2-under and had a brief lead with 10 players hovering either one or two shots behind him. After playing the first five holes of the back nine in even par, Skinns dropped from the lead, with Sungjae Im, the tour’s leading money winner, taking the lead with four consecutive birdies beginning at the 12th.
Skinns responded with a furious finish of his own, playing the last four holes in 4-under with an eagle at the par-5 15th and birdies at 16 and 18. He hit 7-iron to the 15th and holed an 18-footer for eagle, and took the lead when he hit his wedge approach on 17 to two feet. He closed out the tournament by holing a 12-footer from the fringe for a clinching birdie at the 18th.
A final round 65 gave Skinns a 16-under 268 total and a two-stroke margin of victory over Im, who tops the money list by more than $100,000.
“It’s been a really long journey,” Skinns said after his victory. “I don’t want to say I didn’t think it could happen, but I’m 36 years old and I’ve been at it for a while. It was a relief, complete relief, that I finally got it done.”
For the week, Skinns played the three par 5s at Indian Creek in 13-under, averaging under 4.00, caridng three eagles, eight birdies and two pars.
With the $108,000 winner’s check, Skinns moves up almost 100 spots to 33rd on the money list after beginning the week 132nd. His earnings for the season are just over $126,000, less than $13,000 behind the player in 25th. The top 25 at the end of the regular season are guaranteed a spot on the 2018-19 PGA Tour, with 25 more PGA Tour cards available from the Finals Series. There are four tournaments left in the regular season, which concludes in Portland August 16-19.
Skinns was one of England’s top junior golfers before enrolling at Tennessee, where he started for four years and earned All-America honors three times. As a freshman, he won the tournament hosted by Augusta State at Forest Hills, and closed out his college career with a win in the SEC Championship at Sea Island GC as a senior. Along with his two college victories, he had six runner-up finishes.
After he graduated from Tennessee in 2006, Skinns spent most of his time as a pro on the Hooters Tour, and settled in Suwanee, where he started a family that includes wife Kristin and two sons.
Two other Atlanta area golfers enjoyed successful weeks in Omaha.
Castro moved up from 19th to 15th on the money list, and is all but assured a return to the PGA Tour for the 2018-19 season after tying for fourth Sunday. He began the final round tied for 17th, six shots off the lead, but birdied the par-5 15th to get to 6-under for the day and tied for the lead. Players behind him moved past him as he played the last three holes in even par, finishing with a birdie at the 18th.
A final round 66 gave Castro a 12-under 272 total and his first top-10 finish since he placed eighth or better in four consecutive starts this spring. He is comfortably inside the top 25 with four tournaments to play, with a top-10 finish or better on the final money list still within reach.
Fayetteville resident Wade Binfield, who played his college golf at Clayton State, moved into the top 5 with four straight birdies in the final round Sunday before a double bogey-bogey finish dropped him into a tie for 14th at 275 after a closing 70.
Binfield has played mini-tours for most of his professional career, and won four tournaments in Florida early this year, with one of those wins earning him a spot in a Web.com Tour event in Louisiana. Binfield has played in four Web.com events in 2018 and tied for 15th in Utah the week before his strong showing in Omaha.
By finishing in the top 25, Binfield earned a spot in this week’s event in Springfield Mo. He has moved up to 119 on the money list, and with a few more good weeks, could crack the top 100 and earn limited status for next year, or possibly move into the top 75, which would qualify him for the Finals Series and earn exempt status on the Web.com Tour for 2019.
Binfield has played on the PGA Tour sponsored Canadian Tour the last three years and placed 52, 51 and 48 on the money list. He tied for 11th in a Canadian Tour event prior to his back-to-back top 15s on the Web.com Tour.