By REX HOGGARD
Chris Kirk turned pro Sept. 18 and plans to make his PGA Tour debut at the Viking Classic in Mississippi on Sept 27.
Kirk, an All-American at the University of Georgia and a member of the victorious U.S. Walker Cup squad, teamed with Sea Island, Ga.-based Crown Sports Management and has signed a multi-year endorsement agreement to become a full staff player for Titleist.
Kirk will play next week on a sponsor exemption, and he has landed a spot at the Frys.com Open next month in Las Vegas.
“(Kirk) started communicating with us early,” said Randy Watkins, Viking Classic tournament director. “He’s been very involved throughout the entire process, and we felt he was a rising star.”
Another member of the Class of 2007 is sorting out his post-college fortunes. Colt Knost, the reigning U.S. Amateur and Amateur Public Links champion, has not turned pro despite reports earlier this week that he was poised to join the play-for-pay world.
Sources close to Knost, who is assured an invitation into next year’s Masters if he remains an amateur, say he will make a decision in the next few days. Whether he turns pro sooner rather than later likely depends on how many sponsor exemptions into Tour events he can secure before Q-School.
Each of the seven Fall Series events is limited to two unrestricted sponsor exemptions, which are given to players who are not members of the PGA Tour. Thus, exemptions are particularly scarce for the members of this year’s college class, which many observers say is the deepest group in years.
For example, the other unrestricted sponsor exemption into the Viking Classic went to Nationwide Tour journeyman Vance Veazey, while this week’s invitations into the Turning Stone Resort Championship went to John Daly, Notah Begay, Mike Hulbert and Tommy Armour III.
The Ginn sur Mer Classic, the sixth of seven fall events, has offered its two unrestricted exemptions to south Florida twins Derek and Daryl Fathauer. And the Valero Texas Open has told Knost he would probably be offered an exemption, but only if he turns pro.
“There really just aren’t many places for guys to get starts,” said one player manager. “If you can get one or two, you’re very lucky.”
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Rex Hoggard is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.