Former Wright State golfer Ryan Wenzler knew he was in good shape to earn a spot in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship this week after the front nine of the Monday qualifier. He distanced himself from the other 47 players vying for four berths in the field by carding a scorching 29.
At the point, he just needed to avoid disaster on his way to the clubhouse. But the Centerville grad wasn’t ready to see his birdie binge end.
“I remember thinking, I can probably shoot even par on this back side and make it,” he said. “But I told myself, ‘Let’s not let up on the throttle. Let’s keep going — because you don’t know how everybody is doing.’”
The 23-year-old Wenzler, who won the Horizon League individual title as a junior, posted a bogey-free, 10-under-par 62 to earn medalist honors at Boone’s Trace in Richmond, Ky., and will make his PGA Tour debut Thursday.
He picked a good time to turn in the lowest competitive round of his career. He’s a rookie on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, missing the cut in two events so far, and had tried to get through a Monday qualifier five previous times without success.
Though the British Open is also being held this week, Wenzler will be competing against the likes of Billy Horschel and Davis Love III in Lexington, Ky. Former Wright State golfer Frank Lickliter, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, is an alternate.
“I’m going to try to play the best I can. That’s my only goal,” he said. “I just have to focus on my game and see how it goes.”
Wright State coach Brian Arlinghaus, who replaced Pete Samborsky in 2017 after two years as an assistant, isn’t surprised at Wenzler’s breakthrough performance.
“He’s just a complete package,” he said. “He does everything well. There’s not one thing he does that makes him good. It’s everything.”
Wenzler has wowed Arlinghaus with his single-minded focus.
“His level of determination is through the roof,” the coach said. “Most high school juniors and seniors will tell you they want to play on the PGA Tour. Then they get to college, and every step you take, there’s more distractions.
“There’s school, there’s girls, there’s parties, there’s jobs. But he never ever let those things get in his way. From the minute I met him, there were blinders on. It was, ‘Listen, here’s my goal, and nothing is going to stop me from getting there.’
“Hopefully, this is the first of many (PGA events). I really feel it’s only going to get better from here as he gets experience.”
The PGA Tour Latinoamérica is one notch below the Web.com tour, and life on that circuit isn’t glamorous.
“It was tough in the beginning,” said Wenzler, who is based in Orlando and has to fly to tournaments in Mexico, South America and elsewhere. “Down there, anything can happen. Sometimes we’re in bad areas. You just have to focus on your game and try to have an I-don’t-care-what-happens attitude. You just have to roll with the punches.”
Wenzler may have showed up at Wright State with a drive to succeed, but his belief in himself was developed there.
“I won three events in college, and that alone builds the confidence,” he said. “Pete Samborsky and Brian Arlinghaus helped out a lot. ‘Haus’ was definitely there for the mental side, and coach Samborsky and I had a pretty similar attitude.
“It was just a good environment to be in. It helped my game progress. Being at home, being at a school I liked, having good coaches, having good teammates — everything was just perfect.”
Wenzler wasn’t the only former Raider in celebration mode Monday. Austin Sipe, the 2017 Ohio Amateur champ, qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach by claiming one of two spots up for grabs at Moraine C.C.
Sipe, who graduated in December and also is a Centerville grad, won a playoff for the final berth by chipping in for birdie.