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RSM Monday qualifier shares wrenching thoughts of quitting to keep his family

November 14, 2023
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Matt Atkins in action on the first hole during the final round of the 2023 Utah Championship.

Alex Goodlett

They are the stories that go mostly untold nearly every week on the PGA Tour. For every man who enters a Monday qualifying tournament, hoping to earn a spot in that week’s event, there is a fascinating tale about the road on which he’s traveled. Much of the time, there are tests and tribulations that the average fan can’t fathom in thinking of someone as a professional athlete. Guys sleep in their cars or buddy up in hotels; fast food meals are all they can afford; and, sometimes, they beg those close in their circle to keep believing that one day, success and FedEx Cup riches will arrive.

Matt Atkins was in that position ahead of the RSM Classic’s Monday qualifier in Georgia. And the truth is, he still will be in a tough spot no matter what happens this week after he emerged from an eight-man playoff as one of four qualifiers in the field for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Fall finale in Sea Island, Ga.

But in earning his first PGA Tour start since 2019, Atkins possesses that precious commodity that so many seek: hope.

In an interview with the PGA Tour after the Monday qualifier in which Atkins birdied the second playoff hole, the 32-year-old Pennsylvania native tearfully described how he and his wife, who have two children, talked about what their future might look like after this year. Atkins promised that he’d look into getting more sponsors to help out with their finances, but clearly on the table was him possibly leaving his pro pursuit.

“I’ll quit if I have to quit,” Atkins said, “because I’m not going to sacrifice my family for golf. But I don’t want to quit. This [reaching the RSM] is good.”

After winning on the Korn Ferry Tour (then Web.com) in 2016 for what is still his only victory, Atkins reached his only fulltime PGA Tour season in 2017. But he made only $89,000 in 21 events and didn’t retain his card. He has since returned to the KFT with various forms of status since, but Atkins' total earnings since 2019 stand at $189,745 (including this year's promising total of $88,202). So, in the past five years, Atkins has averaged just under $38,000 per season, before expenses.

Those numbers are why the conversations with loved ones become so difficult.

“We get to go prepare [for the week],” said Atkins, who has played in three RSMs, making one cut. “Try to make something happen—not only make the cut and play well, but keep the momentum going. Tryu to just provide for my family, and we know the Lord will.

“Even if his provision is, ‘hey, you’re going to play your last two event and we have to do something else,’ that’s OK. Because the Lord is good no matter what. If it’s golf, great. If not, showe me what is. This is cool to see.”