From Walker Cup hero to Dayton qualifier
DAYTON – Jeff Overton should know a thing or two about pressure since he was the hero of this past summer’s Walker Cup team.
But Overton said that experience was nothing compared to his first attempt at qualifying for the PGA Tour.
Overton held his own on Tuesday in the first round of the first stage of PGA qualifying at Dayton Valley Golf Club, shooting a 5-under-par 67. There was no surprise that the scores were extremely low on the first day, with the conditions being ideal.
Jeremy Anderson took the first round lead after shooting an 8-under 64. He was followed by Ben Portie and Todd Tanner, who each shot 65.
Former University of Nevada standout Carlos Concha was tied for fourth with Josh Williams and Aaron Choi at 66. Overton was tied for seventh with several other players at 67.
The top 19 players plus ties will advance to the second stage of PGA qualifying for the right to advance to the PGA Qualifying School where they would have a chance to earn a spot on the PGA Tour. If the conditions continue to be ideal, it figures that an extremely low score will be needed just to advance to the second stage.
After the first round the cutoff for finishing in the top 19 was 68. The four-round tournament continues through Friday.
Among the local stars in striking distance of moving on is former Galena and UNLV standout Travis Whisman, who shot a 70. Only nine players were unable to shoot par of better on Tuesday, with the highest score being 73.
Unfortunately for former Carson High and St. Mary’s standout John Chirila, he was one of the players who shot 73. Ordinarily that would be a quite respectable score, but not on Tuesday.
Overton graduated from Indiana University last May and was chosen to represent the United States this past summer in the Walker Cup, the competition in which the top U.S. amateurs take on the top amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland.
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” said Overton about the event held in Chicago. “To be selected as one of the top amateurs in the country and to represent the USA was awesome. It was a really neat experience.”
Overton went 3-1, but it was in his last match that he made history. The Walker Cup went down to the final hole on the final day in Overton’s head-to-head match. Overton won 1-up, giving the U.S. a 12 1/2-11 1/2 win.
If Overton didn’t pull out the win, the match would have ended 12-12 and since Great Britain and Ireland was the defending champion, the Walker Cup would have stayed in Europe. “I couldn’t have asked for a better closing to my career,” Overton said.
But Overton said he didn’t feel the pressure because of all the support he had playing on home soil.
“It just makes things so much easier,” said Overton about the support he received. “That was pretty easy in my opinion.”
Overton turned pro right after the Walker Cup. Other than practice, Overton played for the first time at Dayton on Tuesday.
“Out here it’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Overton said. “You just try to not get in your own way.”
Overton said he was ready for the worst-weather wise, joking he was set “to put the skis on and get after it. But I’m used to the cold. You couldn’t have asked for better weather.”
With the ideal conditions, Overton said he wasn’t surprised with the low scores. “You’ve got a lot of great players out here,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of playing well at the right time. Low scores are going to come when y’ve got great weather and golf courses in great shape.”
Overall, Overton said he was pleased with his round. There were three holes on the front nine that he though he was going to bogey, but ended up with birdies. One of them was the par-5 eighth in which he ended up in the water, but recovered to birdie.
“It was kind of an interesting round,” Overton said. “It was just kind of a weird little front nine.”
Overton also left many birdie chances on the greens. “I just felt like I missed 8-10 footers all day long,” he said.
It’s not surprising that Overton spent a great deal of time on the putting greens after his round.
“The greens are a little bit firm and pretty quick,” he said. “You’ve got to be pretty disciplined when you get around the greens.”
Despite his position, Overton is taking nothing for granted. “It’s just a matter of going out there and playing a solid round,” he said.”You just have to keep plugging away. You’ve got to be prepared for the worst and let the chips fall where they may.”