Golf notes: As tournament approaches, Korn Ferry Tour enters crunch time
Time is getting short on the Korn Ferry Tour when it comes to Omaha for the Pinnacle Bank Championship.
Only four tournaments remain in the regular season before the newly-named golf tour — it was the Web.com Tour until June — reaches its playoffs.
Most of the 156 golfers starting the PBC on an expected blazing-hot Thursday at Indian Creek are aimed at one of three targets: No. 1, No. 25 or No. 75.
The vast majority, including Nebraskans Scott Gutschewski of Omaha and Brandon Crick of McCook, seek to be among the top 75 on the new Korn Ferry points list that replaces money winnings for ranking tour members. No. 75 is the cutoff for being in the three-tournament playoffs and on next season’s Korn Ferry Tour.
Gutschewski, who’s on a medical exemption that will carry over until next season, is No. 109, and Crick is No. 151.
The next threshold, The 25, guarantees PGA Tour cards for the 2019-20 season for the top 25 in points. The tour projects the top 11 on the current list as assured of not getting bumped out in the next month. Among those is last week’s winner in Colorado, Nelson Ledesma from Argentina.
The final race is for No. 1 at season’s end, including the playoffs, which guarantees a full exemption on the 2019-20 PGA Tour and a spot in the Players Championship next March. Xinjun Zhang of China is the current leader, and Robby Shelton, a fourth-year pro from Alabama, is second.
Zhang and Shelton are the only double winners on tour this season. Yes, the three-win promotion to the PGA Tour for the remainder of this season and all of the next, is still offered. It’s happened in Omaha three times at the old Cox Classic, with Chris Smith in 1997, Heath Slocum in 2001 and Jason Gore in 2005.
Other Nebraskans in the field are sponsor exemptions Ryan Vermeer of Omaha and Luke Kluver of Norfolk. They are in the same threesome for the first two rounds.
Vermeer, the director of golf at Happy Hollow Club, received his spot after becoming the first from the Nebraska PGA in 60 years to make the cut in a PGA Championship. Kluver gained his sponsor’s exemption through Sunday’s win at the Indian Creek Invitational for amateurs. Both played in last last’s PBC, as did Gutschewski and Crick.
Only one past Omaha champion is entered: 2012 winner Ben Kohles. Defending champion David Skinns is awaiting the birth of his third son and withdrew on Sunday.
Former PGA Tour event winners in the field are Frank Lickliter, Mark Hensby, Derek Ernst, Ben Martin and John Merrick. Lickliter turns 50 a week from Sunday, becoming eligible for the Champions Tour.
Lincoln's Kate Strickland wins battle of 15-year-olds for Nebraska women's match play title
FREMONT, Neb. — Age, achievement and family are some of what you need to know about Nebraska women’s match-play champion Kate Strickland of Lincoln.
She’s a 15-year-old who beat another 15-year-old, Lauren Thiele of Wahoo, 6 and 4 in Wednesday’s title match at Fremont Golf Club.
She became the youngest winner — by more than a year — of a tournament that dates to 1916.
The sophomore-to-be is a niece, by marriage, to Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy. She was last year’s Nebraska girls golfer of the year when she won the Nebraska Girls Amateur.
But it had been awhile since she was in the winner’s circle.
“This means the world for me because this summer has been kind of crazy for me,” Strickland said. “Last year I was playing a lot more consistent golf, and this year it hasn’t been as consistent, not really what I wanted the whole year.
“So it was nice to have a win out here. I didn’t play my best in the qualifiers (USGA and PGA Girls), and it was kind of mentally tough on me going into my other tournaments. Being out here today was a really big confidence booster going into the rest of summer.”
Strickland was third last fall, by one stroke, in the Class A golf championship that was shortened to 18 holes. This summer, she lost in the first round of the state’s girls match play, failed to qualify for the U.S. Junior Girls Championship and tied for fifth at the Nebraska PGA Girls Championship.
On Wednesday, she won the first hole and never trailed. She pitched in for birdie 3 on the seventh hole, staking her to a 5-up lead. Thiele, who plays volleyball and basketball and is on the boys golf team at Wahoo Neumann, won the 10th hole to get back to 5-down.
But Strickland closed out the match with a two-putt par 4 on the 14th.
“It was definitely an honor to play with Kate,” Thiele said. “She’s a really good player and I was honored to make it this far. I got a lot of experience from this week. Some of these aren’t junior golfers any more and they have a lot more experience themselves, so it forced me to grow up a little bit.”
Championship flight: Kate Strickland, Lincoln, def. Lauren Thiele, Wahoo, 6-and-4. Founders flight: Katie Ruge, Omaha, def. Jalea Culliver, Omaha, 5-and-4. Senior flight: Robin Krapfl, Lincoln, def. Debbie Wilbeck, Omaha, 5-and-3.