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Tour Life

Why is this PGA Tour Rookie of the Year candidate playing (UPDATE: And winning!) a mini-tour event this week?

December 06, 2023

Alex Slitz

Eric Cole was officially announced as a PGA Tour Rookie of the Year nominee on Monday. Unofficially, he's already wrapped up the grinder of the year award in pro golf.

That's because Cole can't stop, won't stop playing in golf tournaments. Even if they aren't PGA Tour events. Even if they aren't even close.

A day after Cole got the nomination for the Arnold Palmer Award (along with Ludvig Aberg, Nico Echavarria and Vincent Norrman) he was putting his golf shoes on in the parking lot at Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., to compete in the Minor League Golf Tour Championship. Those in the field are playing for a $10,000 first-place prize—or more than 500 times less than the $5.5 million Cole earned on tour this season.

The 35-year-old played in 40(!) events this past season (over 15 months) and led the tour in rounds played. And that didn't include him driving more than seven hours overnight the day after playing in the Travelers Championship in order to play in the Frank B. Fuhrer Jr. Championship, where he won an additional $20,000.

Cole played in that small event this summer out of respect for a tournament that helped him financially when he was struggling to make it to the PGA Tour. But the guy also just loves to play. He's also won 57(!) times on the Minor League Golf Tour, including twice in 2023. And after taking 13 years as a pro to make it to the big time, he hasn't forgotten where he came from.

“It’s part of my DNA. I just like it," said Cole, the son of former PGA Tour pro Bobby Cole and LPGA player Laura Baugh, in an interview with the PGA Tour. "It will show how good a lot of guys out here are, that casual fans haven’t heard of.”

It's also another chance to show how good Cole is. He fired an opening 62 to take an early three-shot lead on Tuesday.

"And if they end up beating me," he added, "I hope they’ll realize how close to success they really are."

That's a pretty darn cool message. But it also looks like they're going to have to play pretty darn well to beat Eric.

UPDATE: With rounds of 62 and 67, Cole won for a 58th time on the Minor League Golf Tour to take home $15,000 after bonuses were added to the purse. Second-place finisher Mike Miller earned $4,000.