SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – When it comes to self-imposed timelines, Will Zalatoris admittedly hasn’t always met deadline.
At various checkpoints of golf progression, Zalatoris lagged behind his peers in junior and amateur accomplishments. There were times he wondered whether a professional career would be in the realm.
Two years ago, he missed by two strokes at First Stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, making his path to the PGA TOUR uncertain.
Now, Zalatoris is ahead of schedule.
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The Wake Forest alum arrived at the Bermuda Championship needing a two-way T69 or better to earn PGA TOUR Special Temporary Membership, which allows a player to accept unlimited sponsor’s exemptions in a season.
He had recorded three top-10s in four TOUR starts this fall – including a T6 at last month’s U.S. Open – to move to the precipice of Special Temporary Membership.
With rounds of 69-72-67-68 at Port Royal GC, Zalatoris completed the Bermuda Championship in a tie for 16th.
The current Korn Ferry Tour Points Leader is now free to accept TOUR sponsor’s exemptions without restriction, as he eyes a continued climb up the ladder of professional golf. If he earns equivalent points of top-125 in the 2020-21 FedExCup standings, he’ll earn full TOUR status for 2021-22. (He would need a TOUR victory in order to become eligible for the 2021 FedExCup Playoffs.)
Zalatoris has big dreams in the game, to be sure. Nonetheless, this week in Bermuda marks a memorable milestone, at just 24 years old.
“It’s wild,” said Zalatoris after signing his final-round scorecard at Port Royal GC. “I’ve always set goals and wanted to put a deadline on things. I frankly had never accomplished them at the deadline I ever wanted, and to beat one finally in my career is pretty cool.
“This year, going into the year, my goal was to finish top-25 (on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List), get a card that way. Then COVID hit, and I took the challenges and opportunity to try to gain more experience and try to get my card by three (Korn Ferry Tour) wins. And I did it in any even different way, so it’s very gratifying.”
Zalatoris will not gain entry into this week’s Vivint Houston Open; he’ll plan to attempt Monday qualifying for The RSM Classic and Mayakoba Golf Classic if he doesn’t gain entry otherwise. Then he’ll see how opportunities unfold for next spring – without being contained to the cap of seven sponsor’s exemptions allotted to TOUR non-members.
In his path to Special Temporary Membership, Zalatoris utilized just one sponsor’s exemption. He gained U.S. Open entry via a top-five finish on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List through the WinCo Foods Portland Open in August. He finished top-10 at Winged Foot to qualify for the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, where he placed top-10 to qualify for the Sanderson Farms Championship.
After a missed cut in Mississippi, he finished top-10 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (on that sole sponsor’s invite) to qualify for the Bermuda Championship.
With another top-20 on the shores of the Atlantic, he meets his own TOUR deadline – and then some.
“I wanted to do this my whole life,” reflected Zalatoris on Sunday afternoon.
Just half the age of Bermuda Championship winner Brian Gay (48), he has plenty of career ahead.
Source: PGA tour