A new PGA Tour season is upon us, and that means a new class of rookies just graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour.
Now the criteria for being a PGA Tour rookie are a bit nuanced. Even if a player enters his first season as a Tour member with cards, if he has registered at least seven Tour starts in a previous season, he has already exhausted his rookie eligibility and cannot qualify for Rookie of the Year . So that rules out Justin Suh and MJ Daffue this season.
However, there are 28 more rookies making up this new crop, including some intriguing talent ranging from recent graduates to DP World Tour members to KFT veterans.
The past four Rookie of the Year winners have not won a Tour event in the season in which they received the honor. Aaron Wise was the last rookie to win the Tour and did so during the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson.
Will that trend be broken this season? At least a few of this crew have that ability.
Here are 10 rookies to watch out for in 2022-23:
Secondary school: Illinois (2016)
OWGR snapshot: no. 126; 171 events, 1 win, 35 top-10s
fuss: Unlike most of these rookies, Detry never played a KFT event until this year’s finals, which he qualified through non-member FedExCup points. Detry won on the Challenge Tour and set the tour’s record for margin of victory (12 shots) in 2016, shortly after turning pro. Since then, he has spent the past six seasons on the DP World Tour, finishing runner-up five times.
Fun fact: In addition to golf, Detry played competitive tennis and field hockey growing up in Belgium.
Secondary school: State of Oklahoma (2021)
OWGR snapshot: no. 243; 31 events, 4 top-10s
fuss: Overshadowed by Matt Wolff and Viktor Hovland for much of his amateur career, Eckroat has quietly done everything you could wish for on his way to the PGA Tour. He was a four-time All-American at Oklahoma State and won a team NCAA title in 2018. He was on a victorious Walker Cup team and helped the USA win at Seminole in 2021. He finished third in the inaugural PGA Tour University class. And after a solid first full KFT season with three top-10s under 10 top-25s, he earned his Tour card through the finals. He has the potential to be among the elite drivers of the Tour and he makes a lot of birdies, but if there is one aspect of his game that needs to be addressed it is his short game.
Fun fact: Eckroat became engaged in May 2021 to girlfriend Sally Merrill, with whom he had been in a relationship for about two years but has known since they were 18 months old. Their wedding is scheduled for November 19, so he will miss the RSM Classic, the Tour’s fall finale.
Secondary school: North Carolina (2018)
OWGR snapshot: no. 181; 59 events, 1 win, 8 top-10s
fuss: After registering just 35 world-ranking starts on multiple development trips, Griffin retired from competitive golf in March 2021 and took a job as a financial mortgage advisor. Retirement didn’t last long, though, as Griffin made his way back into the competition that fall, progressing through all three stages of KFT Q-School before finishing second three times and finishing eighth in KFT points after the regular season. to lock up his PGA Tour card. Griffin finished eighth in the KFT average last season, but there is one area where he struggles, it’s mostly off the tee.
Fun fact: Griffin’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Cowan Shields, pitched for the Yankees from 1923 to 1925 and severely injured a lung after removing a Babe Ruth liner from the chest during batting practice. The lung became infected and he battled tuberculosis until his return to baseball in 1930 with the Red Sox. He also pitched for the Phillies the following season.
Secondary school: UNLV (2019)
OWGR snapshot: no. 250; 61 events, 2 wins, 10 top-10s
fuss: The UNLV product via Cornwall, England, just held its full card during its debut KFT season in 2020-21, finishing 75th in points. He then won once and scored three more top-10s this year to finish as number 14 in the regular season. At first glance, he looks like a hipster version of Bryson DeChambeau when he wears his Hogan cap and circle-frame sunglasses, but unlike DeChambeau, Hall doesn’t last long and does his best on and around the greens.
Fun fact: Hall belongs to the same club in England, West Cornwall Golf Club, as Jim Barnes. Nicknamed Long Jim, Barnes won four major championships: the 1916 and 1919 PGA Championships, the 1921 US Open, and the 1925 Open Championship.
Secondary school: UNLV (2017)
OWGR snapshot: no. 136; 65 events, 14 top 10s
fuss: Talk about bad luck. Not only did Montgomery finish number 26 in the regular season during the KFT’s 2020-21 super season for missing his PGA Tour card, he was also the first man to earn his card through the finals that year. To make matters worse, Montgomery had missed a start during that season after qualifying for the 2021 US Open, where he finished 57th. He also earned his way to this summer’s US Open, although he didn’t have to worry about his PGA Tour card as he easily clinched it with nine top-10s in just 17 KFT starts. The UNLV grad does a lot of things right – drives far, hits greens and makes birdies (No. 1 on KFT this season). His score average of 68.36 was also top on the KFT this year.
Fun fact: Montgomery’s father, Monte, is the general manager of the Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas.
Secondary school: Louisville (2021)
OWGR snapshot: no. 205; 50 events, 7 top 10s
fuss: Germany’s T-8 finish at the Barbasol this summer helped him qualify for the KFT Finals, where he earned his PGA Tour card with a top-10 in Columbus, Ohio. He has mainly played on the DP World Tour since turning pro two summers ago after a successful amateur career with two European amateur titles and low amateur honors at the 2021 Open. His highlight at the DPWT, where he was Rookie of the Year last season, is a second place at the Dutch Open last September. Schmid is tall and a great iron player, but he can get cold with the flat stick.
Fun fact: Father, Matthias Sr., was a professional club where Schmid grew up in Maxhuette, Germany.
Secondary school: Oklahoma State (2018)
OWGR snapshot: no. 401; 50 events, 1 win, 7 top-10s
fuss: Stevens was a member of Oklahoma State’s 2018 NCAA title squad, although he was neither in the starting lineup nor the replacement. Turning pro, Stevens played regularly on PGA Tour Latinoamerica and won an event in June 2021, but he is known for dominating at the mini-tour level, most notably on the All Pro Tour, where he has won six times since graduating. He earned his KFT card through Q-School before placing 11 top-25s in 23 starts and then finishing for 12th place in the KFT Championship to earn his PGA Tour card through the finals. Stevens finished third in GIR at the KFT last season.
Fun fact: Stevens’ grandfather, Johnny, made 30 careers in the PGA Tour starting in the 1960s and his father, Charlie, played two Korn Ferry Tour events in 1992.
Secondary school: Georgia (2021)
OWGR snapshot: no. 258; 35 events, 1 win, 4 top-10s
fuss: The Georgia standout was a 2021 Walker Cupper, former top amateur in the world and graduated as the No. 2 player in the inaugural PGA Tour U race. He kept his KFT card through Q-School before finishing 14th in the regular season, a position bolstered by his win at the Rex Hospital Open in June. Thompson is a world class tee to green and he doesn’t have big holes in his game but above all he is just looks like as a mainstay of the PGA Tour.
Fun fact: As a prep junior in 2016, he helped his high school, Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn, Alabama, win a state title in basketball. That was in addition to the six state team titles and two state individual titles he won in golf.
Secondary school: State of Arizona (2021)
OWGR snapshot: no. 246; 47 events, 9 top-10s
fuss: If last year’s KFT campaign hadn’t been a super season, Yu would have earned a spot in the KFT Finals. Instead, his strong opening summer (a T-2, T-5 and three other top-25s) after fourth in the PGA Tour U left him next to nothing, so he had to go to Q-School. Fortunately for Yu, he kept his card and got over a slow start by giving up three top-3 spots from May to sneak in the 25 at number 20 and grab his PGA Tour card. Yu, a former top amateur in the world whose average of 70.46 strokes in the state of Arizona was only behind Jon Rahm, drives the ball at a very high level and is second in total riding last season on the KFT. His irons can come off, but in general he has a nice all round game.
Fun fact: Yu started playing golf at the age of 5 when his father, Tommy, played professionally before becoming a teacher and buying a driving range in Taiwan. Yu attended a golf academy in the US and verbally committed to the state of Arizona before even stepping onto campus.
With hard work and sacrifice, Kevin Yu set out to realize the dream of the PGA Tour
Secondary school: Washington (2018)
OWGR snapshot: no. 99; 100 events, 2 wins, 24 top-10s
fuss: Yes, you read that right – Yuan has finished in the top-10 in almost a fourth of his professional starts, which have come mainly on the KFT and before that, PGA Tour China. He won the KFT’s regular season points list this year behind a win and three other top-3 finishes. He was third in the KFT all-around ranking, fourth in scoring average and eighth in GIR, while also being a top-50 putter and scrambler. Of course it doesn’t always look like that; Yuan is a quirky player, with crazy follow-ups (he’s Ho Sung Choi, but actually good) and a carefree personality. He will be fun to follow on the big stage.
Fun fact: Yuan was born in China but attended Eagles Dream Golf Academy and Lake Mary Prep in Orlando, Florida.