2004: Newsmakers - Wittenberg starts ‘learning curve’

Casey Wittenberg said he left Shinnecock Hills unsure if he would return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore year. Three days later, he signed with IMG to manage his professional career and had six sponsor exemptions lined up for 2004.

The June 23 announcement, however, was not unexpected (Golfweek, April 17). Wittenberg made the cut at the U.S. Open (tied for 36th) and the Masters this year, earning a return trip to Augusta National with his tie for 13th place.

The 19-year-old Memphis, Tenn., native had been followed closely by IMG for months and had spurned early season PGA Tour sponsor exemptions, fueling speculation that he was waiting to turn professional before using his allotted seven.

Wittenberg’s first professional appearance was June 28 in the British Open international qualifier at Congressional Country Club, to be followed by the Cialis Western Open, the John Deere Classic, U.S. Bank Championship, Buick Open, Buick Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship. IMG’s Jay Danzi will represent Wittenberg.

“Fortunately, with the way I played, it opened some doors for me,” Wittenberg said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and I have a great support structure.

“I don’t expect to go out there and run over the PGA Tour; I know there is going to be a learning curve. Some may not agree with my decision but I felt that it would be better for me to do things this way.”

As a freshman, Wittenberg earned second-team NCAA All-American honors and ended the season ranked 15th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Last year, Wittenberg won the Terra Cotta Invitational, Southern Amateur and Porter Cup before losing to Nick Flanagan on the 37th hole in the championship match of the U.S. Amateur. He was selected to the 2003 U.S. Walker Cup team and named Golfweek’s Amateur of the Year.

“I knew when I recruited him that he wanted to be on the PGA Tour,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder, who had last spoken with Wittenberg June 4 after the final round of the NCAA Championship. “He’s always been on a fast track. He knew the PGA Tour was where he wanted to be and knew he was going to try to do that as fast as he could.

“My hope is that he does well this summer, gets his card and has a successful PGA Tour career.”

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