Buffing clubs, driving a range picker, and blowing my minimum wage income on imported Beastie Boys albums … that is what I was doing at age 17. Jonathan Griz, at age 17? He simply dropped a cool 5-under par 65 to qualify for a world-class professional golf tournament.
The highly touted amateur and 2020 South Carolina State Amatuer champion bested pros from all over the world to earn one of only eight coveted spots in Monday qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour’s stop in Savannah at the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club.
While his peers were crunching calculus functions, shaking up cartons of chocolate milk at lunch, and muting mics on their Zoom classes, Griz was grinding alongside the next wave of PGA Tour stars at the Tom Fazio track.
While the name has changed seemingly every year since its creation, from the Hogan to the Nike, then the Buy.Com, Web.Com, and now Korn Ferry Tour, the tour is the Triple-A baseball equivalent for professional golfers. The likes of Ernie Els, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas all competed on the Korn Ferry Tour before heading up to the PGA Tour. In short, these golfers are a few shots away from the pinnacle of professional golf.
On Thursday, Griz came out of the gates confident and unintimidated by his surroundings as he carded an impressive even-par 72 in round one. His trek around The Landings’ 7,094 yards was highlighted by an eagle on the sixth, his 15th hole of the day. The University of Alabama commit found himself comfortably in the middle of the pack after day one. But as most Korn Ferry tournaments go, low numbers are a must, which meant work would be needed in round two to make the cut and play on the weekend.
As Griz prepped for his late afternoon round two tee time on Friday, the cut line was hovering around 3-under par. A pedal-to-the-metal mentality would be needed by anyone starting the day at even par. A quick birdie on the par-3 second hole opened the door to a dream scenario for the Lowcountry teenager. Two more birdies and he would even further solidify that he is ready to tangle with some of the game’s elite talents while still not old enough to buy a lottery ticket.
The invitingly short par-4 fifth hole only plays 320 yards, but the Fazio-designed risk-reward hole branded Griz’s scorecard with a double bogey, which was piggy-backed by back-to-back bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes. The former Hilton Head Prep standout did not see any red numbers for the remainder of the round and carded a 7-over 79.
Jonathan Griz did not make the cut in his pro tournament debut. But the young man introduced himself to a world that us hackers only dream about as we grab a club sandwich from the beverage cart attendant and hit our unannounced second mulligan down the wrong fairway.
His trophy cabinet needs reinforcements for the hardware he is collecting and honors he is receiving. So yes, write the name Jonathan Griz down and do not be surprised in a few short years if you see this tenacious, fast-swinging young man continuing to make his dreams reality at the highest of all levels.
By Brian Rietveld