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You might remember this former college star who just scored stunning first victory on KFT

June 19, 2022

Norman Xiong celebrates with the propeller trophy after winning the Wichita Open.

Dylan Buell

Norman Xiong was considered among the most talented players on the U.S. Walker Cup team that routed Great Britain & Ireland at Los Angeles Country Club in 2017. His company on that squad? Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris.

You know where that trio was on Sunday. They were among the contenders in the U.S. Open at The Country Club, where both Scheffler and Zalatoris battled to the final hole with eventual champ Matt Fitzpatrick. Morikawa, of course, already has two major trophies on his mantle.

And Xiong? He was in Wichita, Kan., on Sunday, trying to straighten out what has been quite the winding road since that American team departed L.A. nearly five years ago. Having struggled to reach any top-level tour, Xiong, 23, has been relegated to Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers. And even a few weeks ago, that didn’t go well when he showed up too late for the playoff that offered one final spot.

But Xiong bounced back to Monday qualify for the KFT’s Wichita Open, and he won his first big pro event in stunning fashion. Following a second-round 61 on Friday, Xiong shot 64-63 on the weekend at Crestview Country Club to record a 26-under total and prevail by five shots over Kevin Roy.

It is a win whose importance cannot be understated. With only 24 KFT starts on his resume since 2018 (and 17 missed cuts), Xiong, who starred for Casey Martin at Oregon, now gains full status on the circuit for the rest of the season.

"I feel so much different than when I was out here a few years ago," Xiong told interiewers on Sunday. "New chapter now.

"I think I've recently focused on the process. I did a lot to rebuild my foundation. I kind of had a vision of what it took to play my best golf and I'm just trying my best to stick to that path."

Xiong, born in Guam to Chinse parents and raised in San Diego, had reason to believe he would be on the PGA Tour tour shortly after he chose to leave Oregon early. He was considered as talented as the aforementioned stars in the Walker Cup—a group that also included Cameron Chance and Maverick McNealy. But after earning his KFT card for 2018, he promptly lost it and has struggled since. Xiong had made only two starts on the KFT since, missing the cut both times. He’s played 10 times on the PGA Tour, with a best finish of 26th in the 2018 Sanderson Farms. His last start came at this year’s Wells Fargo, where Xiong scored 69-69 but missed the cut.

According to the KFT, the last open qualifier to win was Rick Lamb in the 2016 LECOM Health Challenge. Overal, Xiong is the 25th player to reach from qualifying and triumph.