FALMOUTH — Eric Jermyn was playing alongside Korn Ferry Tour golfer Scott Brown, and the Raymond resident had the same thought every time Brown hit a tee shot, or a long iron, or a wedge.
“Their misses are minuscule, compared to ours,” said Jermyn, 52. “I’m hitting into the water, and they’re missing by 15 feet. It’s absurd how good they are.”
Amateur players got to take their swings Wednesday alongside professional golfers in the Live and Work in Maine Open Pro-Am, a fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. It was one of the events leading up to the 72-hole pro tournament that begins Thursday at Falmouth Country Club.
A total of 42 teams, at $6,500 per group, participated, giving them the chance to play alongside elite level players, many of whom are on the brink of making the PGA Tour. The Korn Ferry Tour is the top development series for the PGA Tour.
“They don’t miss too far off,” said Mark O’Brien, 36, of Braintree, Massachusetts, a 2-handicapper who was playing with Brandon Harkins. “Some of the shots that aren’t good for them, they’re still in play. That’s the difference. And obviously, the putting and chipping is unbelievable. It was great to watch.”
Sidney’s Ryan Poulin, 49, called himself “below an amateur,” but still rolled in a 40-foot putt after a reading from professional partner Eric Cole.
“It was great,” he said. “Lot of great tips. It was a great day, I had a lot of fun.”
Both sides benefit. Pros give tips on swings and reading greens; amateurs give advice on where to visit.
“It’s great playing with all the local guys. I get all the good restaurants and all the good insights around here,” said Robby Shelton, a 26-year-old from Mobile, Alabama. “All the older guys, you could hit a terrible shot and they think it’s amazing. It’s definitely looked at from a different perspective.”
The fun and games of the pro-ams are a break from the serious nature of the Korn Ferry Tour, where every golfer is good, making cuts is never guaranteed, and money isn’t always easy to come by.
“There’s so much competition,” said Shelton, who is in 15th place in the Korn Ferry points standings, with the top 25 at season’s end earning PGA Tour cards. “Every week, you’ve got to make birdies, every single week, just to keep up with the pack. There’s no slowing down for these guys. If you don’t have your game one week and you shoot even par, you might miss the cut.”
It can be a roller coaster. Hit the ball well and knock in some putts, and you compete for a title and feel your confidence soar. Hit the ball well but miss some of those putts, and you’re on the wrong side of the cut.
“That’s the crazy part of golf,” said Jeremy Paul, 28, of Frankfurt, Germany, who’s 38th in points. “Sometimes you wake up and you feel like you’re hitting it fantastic and everything is flowing and golf feels easy. And it could be a day later where you’re on the range and you’re like ‘Damn, where has the game gone?”
Anders Albertson, 29, saw that dynamic for himself this season. He finished 55th or worse four times, missing two cuts, in a five-tournament stretch from January to April. Four tournaments later, he won, earning himself a handsome $135,000 payday and moving him up in his pursuit of a PGA Tour card. He’s now 13th in the points standings.
“You can wake up one day and it’s much different than the next, after a tournament with a big finish or you kind of ride the wave where it’s hard to get those points,” said Albertson, a Houston native.
In addition to the competitive crunch, there’s a financial one. Korn Ferry Tour payouts are far smaller than the PGA Tour. For example, the purse for the Live and Work in Maine Open is $700,000, while the purse for this week’s Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour is $8.3 million. Last year, 18 players at the Travelers made $100,000. This year, only the winner at Falmouth will 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, lodging and food, Korn Ferry players know to watch their expenses.
Trevor Cone, 29, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is staying with a host family in Falmouth to save the cost of a hotel for the week.
“You’ve got to have some good sponsors,” said Cone, 29th in points. “And then you’ve just got to find a way to save a buck or two here and there. I don’t know whether that’s eating fast food or what, but you’ve just got to figure it all out.”
Figuring it out isn’t easy, but the challenge is what draws the players to the sport.
“I have half my life invested in this sport,” Paul said. “You develop that dream, that you can do it. That’s the goal. I feel grateful. So many people in the world can’t pursue their dreams for so many reasons.”
Even for struggling players, there’s a chance for a breakthrough every time they tee it up. Players sitting between 33rd and 42nd in the Korn Ferry points standings would rocket up the ladder and essentially wrap up their cards with a win this week.
Cone, who won a Korn Ferry Tour event in Kansas City in May after finishing 75th the week before and missing the cut twice before that, has seen for himself what one good week can do.
“That’s what keeps most of us going,” he said. “I feel like I’m proof this year that, if you’re out here, anyone can win week in and week out.”
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