Patton Kizzire took long, winding road to PGA Tour success

Patton Kizzire took long, winding road to PGA Tour success Getty Images

Patton Kizzire took long, winding road to PGA Tour success

PGA Tour

Patton Kizzire took long, winding road to PGA Tour success

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Three years ago, when Patton Kizzire was granted a sponsor invitation into what then was the McGladrey Classic, barely anyone outside of the tight Sea Island golf mafia knew the young man’s name.

At 6-foot-5, and walking the fairways ever so slowly – as those on island time can do – he reminded many of the tournament’s host, Davis Love III. He just didn’t have the golf credentials to start closing that gap between the two.

Kizzire would tie for 54th and earn $12,544 that week, a nice stepping stone for a young player who had some talent but was having some difficulties trying to find his way. Last week, when he teed it up at Sea Island in what’s now known as the RSM Classic, Kizzire was a PGA Tour winner, just days removed from capturing the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, where he played 36 holes on Sunday and held off a world-class player in Rickie Fowler.

“I’m glad it wasn’t easy,” Kizzire said. “Rickie applied a lot of pressure, which is good. I wanted to see how I’d respond to that.”

On a long Sunday that he’ll keep in the memory bank for a long time, he’d shoot 66-67 and seize his winner’s trophy. It was a nice feeling, and to those who know Kizzire, an accomplishment long overdue. Maybe now he won’t get in his own way so much.

“You have to manage your expectations,” he said. “I think that was something I struggle with. I always want to play well so badly that sometimes I put too much pressure on myself.”

For all the young bucks stepping right out of college and winning these days, Kizzire, now 31, offers a different story. Mac Barnhart, whose Sea Island-based Crown Sports firm (owned by Lagardere) oversees Kizzire, likes to call Patton “a 10-year, overnight sensation.”

Kizzire did not get to the Tour in the fast lane. He paid his dues at several levels as he watched peers from his college days at Auburn find success. Kizzire turned pro in 2008 and would play mini-tours and earn his way to the varsity level through the Web.com, where two years ago he won twice and was player of the year.

At one point in the darker days, when he was on the Hooters Tour and not playing great and had tapped out his bank account, he turned to an old friend and asked for some financial help. PGA Tour player Brian Harman, friends with Kizzire since the two were 12, was happy to stroke a check. He knew Kizzire’s potential as few did.

“He’s a great guy and he’s got a great golf game, and we’ve all known it for a long time,” Harman said. “And now he’s starting to figure it out. It’s been awesome to watch him play so well.

“It’s a hard game, and you never know what’s going to click with a guy. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. … That’s just golf. I played the mini-tours for two years, and I know what it’s like to be strapped for cash. He just needed a little help. It was a no-brainer for me.”

Kizzire would finish second at a Hooters event in North Augusta, S.C., earned $9,329, and that was enough to start building some momentum.

Kizzire works with instructor Todd Anderson and knows there is ample room to get better. He ranked outside the top 125 last season in driving accuracy, greens in regulation, strokes gained: putting and scoring. But this autumn, he has been a consistent force. He entered Sea Island having already collected top 10s in each of his last three starts. He considers putting to be his strength, but it hadn’t been there for a good portion of the year until it emerged nicely in Mexico. Sunday was one of those days where you’re reminded why you practice so much.

“It’s just finding a little bit of a groove and trusting yourself, getting out there and freewheeling it,” Kizzire said. “If I can freewheel it, I can do pretty well.”

Early in his week at Sea Island, amid some celebrating, Kizzire got a pretty cool phone call, made by a fellow Auburn alum who knows a little bit about success. Bo Jackson, who likes to follow the PGA Tour and pulls for all the former Tigers players, called to tell Kizzire congrats on a job well done.

Bo knows. And now, so, too, do a lot of others. 

(Note: This story appears in the Nov. 20, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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