Twenty-four-year-old professional golfer Wilson Furr, from Jackson, made national news two times recently for all together different reasons.
Stay with me here. As so often happens in the perplexing sport of golf, this gets complicated.
Furr plays on the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA’s Class AAA, which means he plays golf better than 99.99% of people who ever take up the sport. But it also means he is trying to perfect his game to an elite level where he can join that .01 percent that play for millions upon millions on the PGA Tour.
On April 21, Furr was playing and playing well in the second round of the Lecom Suncoast Classic at Lakewood Ranch, Fla. It was an ultra-important round for Furr who needed to make the cut and make some money in order to retain his exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Furr and his two playing partners played the back nine first that day. They finished the 18th hole and began a long walk to the first tee.
“There was a shuttle waiting just behind the bleachers and skyboxes on the 18th green, the same exact kind of shuttle that took us from the driving range to the 10th tee,” Furr said.
One of Furr’s partners asked if the driver if he was going to the first tee, and he said, “Sure, jump in.”
They did. Furr was playing well, in good shape to make the cut. After 12 holes, he was four under par. The trio hit their drives on the fourth hole when a rules official showed up and asked if they had taken a ride from the 18th green to the first tee. Yes, they said, they had.
“That’s a two-shot penalty,” they were told.
Making a cruel and long story short, the two-shot penalty turned a 67 into a second straight 69 for Furr. He missed the cut.
He was hurt. He was angry. He felt almost as if he (and five other golfers) had been set up or almost framed. The penalized golfers pleaded their case to rules officials but to no avail. Instead of being exempt for all Korn Ferry events, Furr thought missing the cut meant that he would have to Monday qualify to get into tournaments for the rest of the year. That’s next to impossible. For example, for the next week’s Home Town Lenders Championship at Huntsville, Ala., 150 golfers teed up on Monday, playing for only four spots.
Surprisingly, Furr wasn’t in that number. Several exempt players, for whatever reason, decided not to play in Huntsville. Furr got in. He shot even-par 70 amid difficult conditions in the first round. Rain shortened the tournament to 54 holes. Furr found himself in the same position as the week before. He needed a really good second round to make the cut. And, frankly, his job was on the line.
Anyone who plays golf knows that pressure mounts as the stakes go up. Just imagine playing for your livelihood. That’s essentially what Furr was doing.
Because of all the bad weather, Furr didn’t tee off for the second round until mid-afternoon on Saturday. He badly needed to make some birdies. Boy, did he.
Furr was six under par through 10 holes when it became too dark to continue. On Sunday morning, he took up where he left off and eventually shot a nine-under-par 61, a course record, to make the cut. Later Sunday, he shot a solid, even par 70 to finish in a tie for seventh and secure his playing privileges for the remainder of the year.
Yes, he still needs to play extremely well to graduate from the Korn Ferry to the PGA Tour. At least now, he has a fighting chance.
The Korn Ferry’s next tournament will be this weekend at Kansas City. Furr will tee off almost as if he has a new lease on life. While he plays the Korn Ferry Tour, he keeps up with his Mississippi buddies on the PGA Tour. Davis Riley, his former Alabama teammate from Hattiesburg, recently got his first win. Hayden Buckley of Belden has won more than $2.6 million this year. Chad Ramey of Tupelo has won more than $780,000.
“They’re doing great, and I’m pulling for them,” Furr said. At the same time, he wants to join them and seeing what they’re doing gives him confidence – and motivation.
“I’ve played a lot of golf with them,” Furr said. “I know their games and I know mine. It lets me know where I stand, makes it seem all the more possible that I can play out there and be successful.”
Yes, but he’s got to get there first. Shooting 61, essentially with his career on the line, was a start. Given all the circumstances, it shows he has the right stuff.