When you’re a professional golfer scrapping for a living on the mini-tours, you look for signs.
Signs your game is headed in the right direction. Signs you belong in the cutthroat world of playing for money. Signs that all the effort and all the time is going toward something bigger.
Cheney native and former Wichita State golfer Zac Potter just received a big one.
Potter shot a 5-under 67 at the English Turn Golf & Country Club in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans Open qualifier, tying for first place to qualify for his first PGA Tour event starting Thursday.
“It’s just an interesting dynamic to go from grinding on the mini-tours, then standing on the range last night waiting to see if I was in a playoff, to having someone come over and tell me I was in (the Zurich Classic) and to go get my player badge,” Potter said. “Kind of a surreal feeling when you try to comprehend all of the things associated with a PGA Tour event.
“The whole concept of getting out there and doing my thing, which I know sounds cliché, ended up being really important because realistically, that’s all you can hope for. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in that first tee box, but I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous.”
Potter, who played at WSU from 2005 to 2009 and went pro in 2011, has been playing on the Adams Tour and the SwingThought.com, which was formerly the Hooters Tour.
He was signed up for the Adams Tour’s Fakier Open in Houma, La., this weekend – about an hour from New Orleans – and was eligible for Monday PGA qualifying event after making it to the finals of Qualifying School in December. His finish in Q-School also gave him conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
“I’d seen some things in my play that I thought were pretty significant, pretty good signs that I was putting something together,” said Potter, who lives in Andover. “To be honest, about a year-and-a-half ago I went to a sports psychologist, Spencer Wood, and he gave me some tools to practice with, about golf, that I’d never thought of before. Mentally, he changed my perspective and I ended up with a rejuvenated passion for the game. Without him, I don’t know if (making it to a PGA Tour event) would’ve been possible.”
Potter, 28, was headed Tuesday to pick up a courtesy car from the PGA and play a round at TPC of Louisiana, where the Zurich Classic will take place.
“We didn’t get officially qualified until late (Monday) night,” Potter said. “So I need to go get registered and take care of some little things.”
The Zurich Classic has a total purse of $6.9 million. Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Billy Horschel and Jason Dufner have all won in the last five years. The tournament will air Thursday and Friday on The Golf Channel, then moves to CBS on Saturday and Sunday.
Noh Seung-yul, last year’s Zurich champion, took home $1.2 million.
Potter’s father, Newman men’s basketball coach Mark Potter, was scheduled to fly from Wichita to New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon after booking a flight late Monday night. Zac Potter’s wife, Shayla, will fly on Wednesday.
“I’m 28 years old, but I guess I feel a bit like a little kid, that excitement of getting to have my dad out here and experience it with him,” Potter said. “He’s been an incredibly big part of my career, incredibly supportive.”
“I don’t even have a hotel yet,” Mark Potter said, laughing. “And I really could care less. I just knew I had to get out there.”