Rafael Becker learned how to become a professional golfer in his four years at Wichita State.
Now the Brazil native is getting his homecoming, as it was announced Monday he will be part of the tournament field for the Wichita Open this week as part of the Web.com Tour. Pairings have not been released yet, but Becker will be one of 156 players teeing off Thursday at the Crestview Country Club North Course.
Playing professional golf has been Becker’s goal since he was a child, and he credits the time he spent with the Shockers and coach Grier Jones, who spent 14 years on the PGA Tour, for being able to reach this week’s Web.com tournament. Becker, who played at WSU from 2009-13, was a two-time Missouri Valley all-conference player and was named the 2012 MVC Golfer of the Year.
“Those were the most important years of my life in becoming a professional,” Becker said. “Playing under (Jones), he had a high level of expectations for you, and he really showed you what you were supposed to be doing and how hard you needed to work. I had a great time at Wichita State and so many great memories that helped in my development.”
Although Sao Paulo, Brazil is home, Wichita is Becker’s home away from home. Being back this week has already brought back some memories and he’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces at Crestview. He also said he’ll be able to stay at the house of former teammate Alec Heinen this week.
“Wichita has been a big part of my life, not just my golf career,” Becker said. “Since there’s no more events in Brazil anymore and now I live in Dallas, this feels like a homecoming. It’s really cool to come back and play Crestview, where I always thought about being on the pro tour when I was here. It’s not often you get the chance to play a home event, but this definitely feels like a home event for me.”
More importantly, Crestview feels like a second home to Becker.
For someone who is trying to work his way up on the Web.com Tour, Becker will take any advantage he can take. His best result so far on the Web.com Tour this season has been a 37th place finish at the Knoxville Open, May 16-19.
“I’ve seen Crestview in all shapes: warm, cold, north wind, south wind, rainy, everything,” Becker said. “It makes my practice rounds easier, and it makes you comfortable and confident at the same time. I’ve seen all of the holes out there, and I know where I need to put it on every hole. Knowing the ins and outs of a course really takes a lot of stress off your back and elevates what you can do.”
Becker isn’t satisfied with just being back in Wichita and reliving his glory days or even with making the cut.
In a field that features several former PGA Tour winners, Becker wants to be the one holding the trophy at the end of Sunday.
“My goal is to win every tournament I play in,” Becker said. “If I didn’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t be out here. I would find another job. If you really don’t think you have the golf to win, you should be doing something else. Being at Crestview, I’m really comfortable there, and I really do believe I have a chance to win.”
Monday qualifiers — Chris Petefish, a Georgia Tech product, shot a course-record 61 to win the Open Qualifying tournament Monday at Auburn Hills. Petefish’s 11-under round earned him a spot in the field of 156 players at the Wichita Open. The other Open Qualifying tournament Monday was played at Willowbend Golf Club, where Tom Whitney shot a 9-under par 63 to win.
Others to qualify were Blake Cannon, Andrew Loupe, MJ Daffue, Dan Woltman and Toni Hakula at Willowbend, and Derek Oland, Ryan Baca, Kevin Kring, Sebastian Vazquez and Rylee Reinertson at Auburn Hills.
Wichita Open parking — Fans are being asked to park at Hawker Beechraft, where there will be a $6 parking fee with all funds being donated to the YMCA. From there, fans will be transported to the front gate at Crestview via shuttle. Fans will be required to go through metal detectors prior to gaining entrance, in accordance with new PGA regulations.
Ground passes are still available for $10 for adults, while kids 12-under, seniors 65-over and active military get in free. VIP passes that include entry to the 17th hole pavilion are still available for $75 for Thursday and Sunday only, as Friday and Saturday are sold out.