SAVANNAH, Ga. – Patience.
It was a word of advice that John Augenstein had heard on repeat last winter as he prepared to make the leap from college to the pros.
“You know, just knowing that what you have is good enough,” said Augenstein, the former Walker Cupper and All-American who left Vanderbilt midway through his extra year after making starts at the rescheduled U.S. Open and Masters.
Augenstein was by all means ready to turn professional. He was coming off a T-55 showing at Augusta National and was, in his words, “energized” on getting to the PGA Tour “as quickly as possible.” He signed with Excel Sports, who also represents Augenstein’s mentor, Justin Thomas, and inked deals with Wilson and Oakley. He secured a handful of sponsor exemptions on Tour, too.
All that was left was to just play.
“But I just felt like when I got out – I was fortunate to get some starts – there was really nothing wrong, except mentally I was just trying so hard,” Augenstein said. “I was trying to be perfect, and I thought that I needed to be. Instead of staying patient on the course, it was like I was trying to shoot 64 on the first hole.”
Augenstein made his pro debut at The American Express last January and missed the cut by four shots. Two weeks later he tied for last in Phoenix. He ended up going seven starts without making a cut – six on Tour, once on the Korn Ferry Tour – to begin his pro career.
“It’s just so defeating,” Augenstein said. “You’re searching for answers and you’re trying to figure out why. You know that your expectations are too high, you know that you’re doing the wrong things, but it’s so easier said than done. You see guys get in ruts out on Tour or in golf, and rarely is it a physical problem. It’s usually you have success, the expectations get higher, you try a little harder, you think you can recreate that, and you never really can.
“You’re always building, you’re always changing on the fly,” he continued. “It’s like showing up the first morning of a tournament and my feeling for hitting a draw today is this, but tomorrow it might not be the same thing, and you kind of have to know that.”
Full-field scores from the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament
By early May, Augenstein had come to the realization that he probably wasn’t going to earn his Tour card via special temporary status or another route, so he took a few weeks off before returning to action at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, where he made his first cut as a pro and tied for 20th. Later that summer, he again made the cut, this time at the Wyndham Championship, to build some momentum going into KFT Q-School.
He rolled into the fall and quickly tied for sixth at the Tour’s season opener in Napa, California. While he missed the cut two weeks later at Sanderson Farms, he tapped into his growing confidence bank again last month at second stage of Q-School. After earning a free ticket through the first two stages because of his made cut at the Masters, Augenstein generated a ton of birdie opportunities, shot 10 under and advanced by four shots in Dothan, Alabama.
This week at final stage, he finds himself just a shot outside of the top 40 and ties with one round to play at The Landings Club. If he moves inside of that number, he’ll get eight guaranteed starts to begin next year on the KFT.
“Game’s been feeling good this week, but just scoring has not been very good,” said Augenstein, who has shot 69-73-70 so far. “It feels like I’m scoring as high as I can every time I play.”
Luckily, he’s getting better at this patience thing. For years, Augenstein competed against the likes of Collin Morikawa, Matt Wolff and Viktor Hovland. Morikawa and Wolff won in their first few months as pros.
Augenstein knows he can eventually win on Tour, too – it’ll just be on a timeline unique to him.
“I always say that Collin is such a great player and a good friend, but he kind of ruined it for a lot of guys because he made everybody think that’s the norm,” Augenstein said. “I just need to be patient, be a little more thankful and enjoy the ride that I’m on because I’m going to be doing something for a long time that not many people get to do.”