The Texas Rangers Golf Club pro shop serves as the media center at this week’s Korn Ferry Tour stop which is an unsuspected bonus. Journalists of all sorts sit at tables, drink coffee, write stories and edit photos. A few phone calls come in for tee time requests to which the head golf professional replies, “I’m sorry, but the golf course is closed today thru Monday, we’re hosting a Korn Ferry Tour event. We reopen on Tuesday.”
And then it’s the champion of all phone calls — a junior golfer is on the line and he’s upset. He doesn’t appreciate all these professional golfers getting in the way of his tournament prep ahead of the Taylormade Junior Open set to kickoff May 1.
On the golf course in Arlington, Texas, Tony Romo leads the field in fan support but finishes second-to-last after first round play today with a six-over 76. He Skechered into this week’s courtesy of a sponsor’s invite. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Jim Nantz sidekick is on the wrong side of the adage, “You can’t win a golf tournament on Thursday, but you can lose one.” With four PGA Tour appearances under his black jogger pants belt, this is Romo’s fifth professional tournament – he’s 48 over par all-time.
A small crowd of autograph hawkers gather near the driving range with America’s Team paraphernalia and fresh Sharpies. The Cowboys franchise leader in passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns obliges the fans and takes the time to add a personal touch, “To Mike, Tony Romo, #9, you the man!”
Whether it’s the bottom, or top of the leaderboard where Anders Albertson has a one-shot lead at nine-under – the Korn Ferry Tour fan experience is among the best in all of sports. It’s PGA Tour-caliber golf with less fans which means the lines for Abraham Ancer’s Flecha Azul Tequila cabana are easy. In the field is the 2009 PGA Championship winner Y. E. Yang, along with John Senden and Steve Marino who’ve made more than $20- and $10 million respectively on the PGA Tour. It’s a mix of seasoned veterans and the hungry looking to make the leap for the Tiger-spiked PGA Tour purses. The current Korn Ferry No. 1 is Will Zalatoris, who finished solo second at the Masters a few weeks ago. The PGA Tour’s development league is loaded with gamers and only the elite survive.
The field will be whittled to the top 65 and ties tomorrow which looks to be a score of around three- or four-under. Trevor Cone, a doughnut enthusiast and contributor to WBGD’s “The Player’s Journal,” sleeps on a score of level par. No stranger to going low, the Virginia Tech Hokie shot 64, 63, 66 and 64 to win the 2018 Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today he stood on the seventh tee box (his 16th hole) at plus-three, and then rattled off three birdies in-a-row to get back to even and give himself a chance at the weekend. Professional golf is the ultimate meritocracy where results are king and Cone is up for the fight.
Stewart Cink and family celebrating a third win for dad at the RBC Heritage is a lovely story, but he’s won a major and his career earnings clip $40 million. His fairytale career is written. Real grinding, and real heroics happen on Friday afternoons at Korn Ferry events where dreams are made, and shattered. All this drama is available with unobstructed views and short tequila lines for $15 a day or $30 for the week and kids 18 and under are free.
The municipal golf course is closed on Monday for tournament break down, but the tee sheet reopens on Tuesday and green fees start at around $60.
It’s hard enough to get grounds passes for Sunday at Augusta, a Tuesday morning tee time is damn-near impossible. Perhaps it’s time to give the Korn Ferry Tour a chance.
Tournament Tickets: https://veritexbankchampionship.com/
Tee Times: https://www.arlingtongolf.com/texas-rangers-golf-club