Falmouth – Eric Jermain was playing alongside golfer Scott Brown on the Korn Ferry Tour, and the Raymond resident had the same idea every time Brown hit a header, long iron or wedge.
Jermaine, 52, said, “Their mistakes are pretty minimal, compared to ours. I hit the water, and they’re missing 15 feet. It’s ridiculous how good they are.”
Amateur players took their swings Wednesday alongside professional golfers at Live and Work in Maine Open Pro-Am, a fundraiser for Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. It was one of the events leading up to the 72-hole Pro Championship that begins Thursday at Falmouth Country Club.
A total of 42 teams participated, priced at $6,500 per set, giving them the opportunity to play alongside elite players, many of whom are on the cusp of the PGA Tour. The Korn Ferry Tour is the best PGA Tour development series.
They don’t miss that much,” said Mark O’Brien, 36, of Braintree, Massachusetts, a two-decade player who played for Brandon Harkins. “Some shots that aren’t good for them, they still play. That’s the difference. The throwing and chopping is obviously unbelievable. And it was great to watch.”
Sydney’s Ryan Boleyn, 49, calls himself a “less-than-amateur” but still rolls a 40-foot volley after a reading from his pro partner Eric Cole.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Lots of great advice. It was a great day, I had so much fun.”
Both sides benefit. Professionals give advice on swinging and reading the green; Amateurs give advice on places to visit.
“It’s great to play with all the local guys. I get all the good restaurants and all the good ideas here,” said Robbie Shelton, 26, of Mobile, Alabama. “All the older men, you can take a horrible shot and think it’s amazing. It sure was looked at from a different perspective.”
The fun and games of the pros are a break from the serious nature of the Korn Ferry Tour, where every golfer is good, cuts are never guaranteed, and the money isn’t always easy to come by.
“There is a lot of competition,” said Chilton, who is 15th in the Korn Ferry points standings, as 25th place at the end of the season earned the PGA Tour cards. “Every week you have to make birds, every week, just to keep up with the flock. There is no slowing down for these guys. If you don’t have your game for one week and you do evenly, you might miss out.”
It could be a roller coaster. Hit the ball well and hit some shots, as you battle for the title and feel confident. Hit the ball well but miss some of those hits, and you’ll be on the wrong side of the pieces.
“This is the crazy part of golf,” said Jeremy Ball, 28, of Frankfurt, Germany, who ranks 38th in points. “Sometimes you wake up and you feel like you’re hitting it great and everything flows and golf feels easy. And it might be after a day where you’re on the range and you’re like ‘Damn, where did the game go?'”
Anders Albertson, 29, has seen that dynamic for himself this season. He finished 55 or worse four times, and missed two pieces, in five tournaments running from January to April. After four tournaments, he won, earning himself a handsome $135,000 and moving him in his quest for a PGA Tour ticket. He is now 13th in the points standings.
“You can wake up one day and it’s a lot different than the next, after a tournament with a big finish or riding a wave where those points are hard to get,” said Albertson, the Houston native.
In addition to the competitive crisis, there is a financial crisis. The Korn Ferry Tour payouts are much smaller than the PGA Tour. For example, the Live and Work in Maine Open portfolio is $700,000, while this week’s Travelers Championship purse on the PGA Tour is $8.3 million. Last year, 18 Travelers earned $100,000. This year, the winner of Falmouth will only reach six figures.
Making the cut is usually enough to make the trip worthwhile. Last year, the lowest payout in Maine was $2,388. But even so, between travel, accommodation, and food, Korn Ferry players know to keep an eye on their expenses.
Trevor Kohn, 29, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is staying with a host family in Falmouth to save on hotel cost for the week.
“You have to have some good sponsors,” said Kohn, who ranks 29th in points. “And then you just have to find a way to save a dollar or two here and there. I don’t know if this is eating fast food or what, but you just have to figure out everything.”
Knowing that is not easy, but the challenge is what attracts players to this sport.
“I have invested half my life in this sport,” Paul said. “You develop this dream, and you can make it come true. That is the goal. I am grateful. Too many people in the world cannot achieve their dreams for many reasons.”
Even for struggling players, there is a chance of a breakthrough every time they advance. Players who sit between 33 and 42 in the Korn Ferry points standings will move up the ladder and essentially close their cards with a win this week.
Kohn, who won the Korn Ferry Tour event in Kansas City in May after finishing 75th the previous week and losing twice prior to that, had seen for himself what one good week could do.
“That’s what keeps most of us going,” he said. “I feel like I’ve proven this year that if I’m here, anyone can win week by week.”
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