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the last word

Beating the Odds Canadian Corey Conners took the tough road into the Valero Texas Open, and what happened next was a storybook journey

By Bill Fields

images: PGA TOUR

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ll professional golfers are well versed in a certain kind of math—of scorecards and leaderboards—but having graduated in 2014 from Kent State University with a degree in Actuarial Mathematics, Corey Conners is a cut above the rest. His undergraduate education, though, doesn’t make what Conners did at the 2019 Valero Texas Open any easier. Monday Qualifiers are a fixture at many PGA TOUR events, long-shot auditions at getting on the big stage. Sometimes called “Four Spotting” for the number of available slots into a tournament, Monday Qualifiers (aptly named for the day of the week the 18 holes are contested) are not for the timid or the tense. Dozens enter. Four golfers advance. If successful qualifying is difficult, parlaying that considerable achievement into a PGA TOUR victory is extremely rare. Since the advent of the all-exempt TOUR structure in the early 1980s that left a foursome of open spots into most tournaments, only four players have gone on to win after earning a week-of spot. Kenny Knox (The Honda Classic) and Fred Wadsworth (Southern Open) did it in 1986. Arjun Atwal pulled off the feat at the 2010 Wyndham Championship. And Conners achieved the improbable in the Lone Star State in April. Conners, 27, from Listowel, Ontario, prevailed in a six-for-one playoff with a birdie on the first extra hole at the Monday Qualifier, “basically squeaking into the field.” Then he set about capitalizing on his opportunity at the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. He had climbed the competitive ladder, spending time on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica before making it onto the Web.com Tour. Conners qualified through The Finals on the Web.com Tour to play on TOUR in 2017-18 and had some bright spots as a rookie but finished 130th in the FedExCup standings to narrowly miss out on full status for 2018-19. A conditional card meant, among other things, making the most of Mondays

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as he did with a 68 at The Club at Sonterra. At the Valero Texas Open, Conners played his way into the final starting time on Sunday for the fourth time—his best being runner-up to Cameron Champ at the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall for his first top-five TOUR finish. Conners had a wild ride at TPC San Antonio after the start of the fourth round was delayed by two hours because of inclement weather. He birdied four of the opening five holes— among his 10 birdies on the day and 29 for the tournament—then bogeyed four in a row as he made the turn. With his wife, Malory, nervously rooting him on down the stretch—her animated reactions of anxiety and joy were a hit on social media— Conners regained his form to shoot 66 and finish at 20-under 268, two strokes ahead of Charley Hoffman. “She was cheering hard for me,” Corey said. “It was awesome to see.” He became the 15th Canadian to win on the PGA TOUR, the victory his first of any kind as a pro. “Couldn’t be more excited to kind of get over the edge and get the job done,” Conners said. “There are so many perks that come with [winning], and I feel like I handled myself really well out there …” Instead of flying home for a week off, Corey and Malory happily adjusted their travel plans to go to Augusta, Ga., his maiden win getting him an invitation to the Masters Tournament, where he tied for 46th. Wherever Conners’ career goes from here, he won’t ever forget an eventful week in San Antonio—when he got the job done twice. 

Corey Conners won the Valero Texas Open, having had a wild ride at TPC San Antonio after the start of the fourth round was delayed by two hours because of inclement weather.

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