Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman will have Chicago area company on the PGA Tour next season. Doug Ghim, former Arlington Heights resident and Buffalo Grove High School graduate, has earned playing privileges for the circuit’s 2019-20 campaign.
Ghim did it by finishing in the top 25 money winners in the Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs, a three-tournament competition matching the top players on the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) circuit and the PGA Tour players who failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
For Ghim it came down to the last putt on Monday in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at Victoria National in Evansville, Ind. After making a bogey on the 17th hole Ghim needed a par on the 72nd hole of the tournament to secure his card on golf’s premier circuit. He got it by getting up and down from a green-side bunker. It gave him a tie for 19th in the tournament and the No. 23 spot in the playoff standings.
Ghim’s elation after that last 10-foot putt dropped was captured on video and passed along widely on social media. He broke down in tears while leaving the green, then tweeted “IT HAPPENED.’’
Given time to reflect, Ghim admitted the pressure was intense.
“I’ve never felt nerves like that before,’’ he said. “To have it all come down to one putt is pretty surreal.’’
Given the solid amateur career that Ghim had, his qualifying for the PGA Tour in his rookie season as a touring pro shouldn’t be a surprise.
Though playing high school golf only as a freshman, he earned a scholarship to collegiate powerhouse Texas and was a mainstay for the Longhorns for four seasons. Working with his father Jeff as his swing instructor, Ghim preferred to play in the bigger junior tournaments around the country rather than be limited to high school events. He competed very rarely in Illinois as an amateur and that decision paid off.
Ghim made the U.S. teams for both the Walker Cup and Arnold Palmer Cup matches and a runner-up finish in the 2017 U.S. Amateur earned him a berth in the 2018 Masters tournament. Ghim didn’t let that opportunity get away, either. He was low amateur, finishing in a tie for 50th place, and brought home some coveted crystal by making three eagles during the tournament.
After finishing up at Texas he turned pro, moved to Las Vegas and earned a berth on the Korn Ferry circuit through its three-stage qualifying tournament last fall. His play during the regular season, though, wasn’t noteworthy. He had a tie for third in Colombia in the second tournament of the season in February and two top-10s in June but was only No. 52 on the point list at the conclusion of the regular season.
That left him out of the top 25 who gained automatic PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 campaign, and he was trending in the wrong direction entering the season-ending playoff series. He had three missed cuts to conclude the regular season but was steady in the playoff events, finishing tied for 23rd and tied for 37th before his nail-biting finish on Monday.
Chances are Ghim won’t get much of a rest before the next PGA Tour season begins. It’ll tee off on Thursday with A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier event in West Virginia. While most of the established PGA Tour players will compete only sparingly for the rest of 2019, the young players will want to get their seasons off to a good start.
The fall events will provide a chance for Ghim and the other Korn Ferry Tour graduates to get into a series of big-money tournaments and earn FedEx Cup points before the top stars return full-time.