The awarding of sponsor’s exemptions isn’t a big deal at a PGA Tour event. Tournament directors usually announce the lucky four or so winners in the early days of tournament week.
That’s not the case with this year’s John Deere Classic, however. Highwood’s Patrick Flavin received the good news nearly two months before the JDC, which tees off on June 30 at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.
Not only did JDC executive director Clair Peterson declare Flavin the first special exemption for this year’s tourney, he also invited him to the event’s May 13 media preview event where he will share the spotlight with defending champion Lucas Glover. Rarely are non-PGA Tour members accorded that honor.
“I’m pumped. This is a dream come true,’’ said Flavin, who starred for his college team at Miami of Ohio but got his first major notoriety by winning both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year (2017). Only David Ogrin, a PGA journeyman, had accomplished that feat, back in 1980.
“Patrick’s performance in Monday qualifiers this season in addition to his strong college career and Midwestern roots compelled us to invite him,’’ said Peterson.
Flavin’s showing in the 18-hole Monday rounds, in which about 100 players compete for four berths in the tournament proper, particularly caught Peterson’s attention. Flavin sees them as his path to the PGA Tour, and so far so good.
Flavin survived the Monday qualifier for the Bermuda Open and tied for 17th in the tournament. He survived the Monday qualifier for the Puerto Rico Open and tied for 22nd.
In addition to those successes he narrowly lost spots in Monday playoffs at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Valspar Championship and was one shot out of a playoff for a berth in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Though Flavin survived on Monday at last week’s Mexico Open he missed the cut and didn’t cash in for prize money or the all-important FedEx Cup points.
“I need enough points to get into the last three Korn Ferry (Tour) events of the year,’’ said Flavin. “That’s my goal. That’s the carrot I’m chasing.’’
If he gets into the Korn Ferry Finals and finishes in the top 25 he’ll get his PGA Tour card. It’s not an impossible feat. Patrick Reed tried the Monday qualifier rout in 2012 and survived six of them. In 2018 he won the Masters.
Sponsor exemptions also can lead to FedEx points, and Flavin earned some when he was invited to the Corales Puntacana tourney in the Dominican Republic and tied for 54th. Now the only PGA Tour event in his home state has also opened a door for him.
“John Deere’s a game-changer,’’ said Flavin. “I’ve given myself lots of opportunities. I’ve gotten so much better, but the biggest change is mentally. It’s just feeling you belong. I’m really in a good place.’’
Flavin has earned 75 FedEx points in the three PGA Tour events in which he made the cut and estimates he’ll need 100 to get into the Korn Ferry Finals. He could get 100 just by playing well in the JDC and hopes to compete in Illinois before that.
Last year the Western Golf Association gave him a sponsor’s exemption into its Evans Scholars Invitational, and Flavin finished fifth in that Korn Ferry stop. He’s hoping for a return to the tourney, renamed the NV5 Invitational, when it comes to The Glen Club May 26-29.
HERE AND THERE: The Illinois men’s team rallied in Sunday’s third round of the Big Ten championships at French Lick, Ind., to win the league title for the seventh straight year and 12th in the last 13. The Illini learn where they’ll be playing the regional stage of the NCAA tournament at today’s 3 p.m. Golf Channel announcement..
Kent State won the Mid American Conference title for the sixth straight time last week at White Eagle, in Naperville. Northern Illinois finished third, but the Huskies had a notable accomplishment on the women’s side. Jasmine Ly, who won the MAC title a week earlier, became the first NIU woman to qualify for the NCAAs.
Illinois alum Nick Hardy is dealing with a wrist injury in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He hopes to return to action at the Byron Nelson Classic.
The 32nd season of the Golfers on Golf Radio show begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday on WNDZ (750-AM). Rory Spears, Ed Stevenson, Bill Berger and myself will return as co-hosts of the longest-running golf radio show in the Chicago area.