CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Patrick Reed’s run started two weeks ago, when he was pulled off the golf course during a Monday qualifier and given an eleventh-hour exemption to the Valero Texas Open. An all-night drive to the Zurich Classic’s qualifier followed, then an adventure through four states to make the qualifier for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Reed was a first-team All-American last year at two-time national champion Augusta State but is without status on any major tour. After finishing 35th at the Texas Open, he made the nine-hour drive with his fiancee, Justine Karain, to New Orleans. They arrived at 2:45 a.m., sleeping four hours before the Zurich Classic’s Monday qualifier. An 8-iron to 2 feet on the second playoff hole earned him a second consecutive start. He birdied five of his final eight holes at TPC Louisiana to tie for 24th.
The pair took a circuitous route to this week’s Tour stop in Charlotte. Their first flight went from New Orleans to Chicago’s Midway International Airport. The next one landed in Greenville, S.C., some 90 minutes from Charlotte. They arrived at the hotel around 1:15 a.m. Monday, with another Monday qualifying round awaiting. He shot 65 to advance to the Wells Fargo Championship.
The 21-year-old has sneaked his way into three consecutive PGA Tour events. He’ll play the same Quail Hollow layout this week as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. The Tour’s stars lead a cushy lifestyle, supported by seven-figure endorsement checks and multiyear exemptions. Reed, on the other hand, has been dealing with overnight trips and uncertain schedules.
“These are the kinds of stories you hear from the past,” Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach at Augusta State, said. Reed’s travels have evoked memories of rabbits, a species that tried to qualify weekly for PGA Tour events but was killed off by the all-exempt tour. The past three weeks have been an interesting adventure for Reed and Karain, who doubles as his caddie.
“It’s been a very hectic couple of months, but a very happy couple of months,” Reed said. “I’m in a great state of mind and very happy. She’s keeping me calm. She’s the most positive one on the golf course. When I get down, she picks me up.”
Reed proposed to Karain, whom he met while attending high school in Baton Rouge, La., in January, shortly after returning from a victory in a professional event in Trinidad & Tobago. They also moved to Houston that month.
She does more than carry the bag. Karain, a former high-school golfer, helps read the putts.
She gave him the proper read on a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole of Monday’s qualifier that kept Reed out of a 10-for-2 playoff. Karain is a registered nurse but is taking time off work to caddie.
“I thought right edge. She said, ‘No, left edge,’ ” Reed said. “I listened to her because I wasn’t putting that great that day. I played it left edge and poured it in the center of the cup.”
Reed’s competitive nature made him a match-play master in amateur golf and is perfect for Monday qualifying, in which a player must forget the long odds against him and squeeze as many birdies as possible into 18 holes. “He loves that environment, the you-against-me mentality,” said Gregory, now the head coach at his alma mater, SMU.
Reed went 6-0 in the match-play portion of the past two NCAA Championships and was a semifinalist at the 2008 U.S. Amateur. He beat 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 8 and 7, in last year’s NCAA Championship. Reed is trying to beat the odds this time and earn a PGA Tour card on a schedule created from Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions.
He has made $81,755 for his work in the past two weeks and has an opportunity to add to that total at Wells Fargo. He can earn Nationwide Tour status by finishing in the top 200 on this year’s money list. It took $169,973 to do that last year. Reed will have to earn close to $700,000 to earn a PGA Tour card for next year. His good play will strengthen his candidacy for sponsor exemptions into upcoming events. He can receive six more exemptions this season.
“It’s fun because you get to prove yourself,” Reed said. “I feel like I’m playing well enough to play out here.”