PGA Tour University

College golfer loses NCAA title, but earns huge perks through PGA Tour University

May 30, 2023
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Ross Steelman of Georgia Tech plays a tee shot on the second hole during the NCAA Men's Golf Division I Championships.

Christian Petersen

When Florida senior Fred Biondi rolled in his final putt to secure the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship on Monday, Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman stood in the shade of a video board and sportingly clapped for the winner. Inside, Steelman must have been feeling a heavy churn of emotions. Yes, he’d lost the individual title to a golfer who trailed him by five shots at the beginning of the round at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. But in many ways, Steelman had truly climbed to a higher peak.

With his tie for second, the Missouri native jumped from No. 6 to No. 4 in the PGA Tour University rankings, and that could have an enormous impact in the early stages of his professional career.

Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg already had the PGA Tour U title wrapped up before the NCAAs began, and he officially finished atop the final rankings on Monday night. With the accomplishment, the Swede becomes the first PGA Tour U No. 1 to earn fully exempt status on the PGA Tour, beginning this year and extending through the 2024 season. The Nos. 2 through 5 finishers get some very nice perks themselves. They earned fully exempt Korn Ferry Tour membership for 2023, as well as an exemption to Final Stage of 2023 PGA Tour Q School. They also can accept unlimited PGA Tour sponsor exemptions for the remainder of 2023 all of 2024.

Steelman is a member of that group, along with Biondi at No. 2, Adrien Dumont De Chassart, of Illinois, at No. 3, and Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett, who tied for 16th at this year’s Masters, at No. 5. The toughest setback was suffered by Pepperdine’s William Mouw, who began the NCAA Tournament in the No. 5 spot and fell to No. 6 when he tied for 40th on Monday.

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Ludvig Aberg becomes the first PGA Tour University rankings winner to earn full status on the PGA Tour for the rest of 2023 and 2024.

David Cannon

Aberg had what would be considered a poor week in the NCAAs. Not only did the two-time Ben Hogan Award winner and World Amateur No. 1 manage only a T-29 finish during the individual competition, his Red Raiders weren’t one of the eight teams that reached match play. But Aberg, an eight-time winner in college, had already secured the top spot with his strong play throughout the season.

The PGA Tour U Second Team, for those at Nos. 6-10 in the standings, is composed of Mouw, Ryan Burnett (North Carolina), Patrick Welch (Oklahoma), Ricky Castillo (Florida) and Yuxin Lin (Florida). Those players earned conditional Korn Ferry Tour membership for 2023, fully exempt membership on PGA Tour Canada for 2023, an exemption to Second Stage of 2023 PGA Tour Q School, and exempt status through the Latin America Swing of the 2024 PGA Tour Americas season.

The Third Team is made up of those who finished Nos. 11-20. They are Sam Choi (Pepperdine), Travis Vick (Texas), Reid Davenport (Vanderbilt), Derek Hitchner (Pepperdine), Tommy Kuhl (Illinois), Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira (Arkansas), Ben Carr (Georgia Southern), Connor Howe (Georgia Tech), Chase Sienkiewicz (Arizona), and Maximilian Steinlechner (North Carolina State). They earned fully exempt membership on PGA Tour Canada for 2023, an exemption to Second Stage of 2023 PGA Tour Q School, and conditional status through the Latin America Swing of the 2024 PGA Tour Americas season.

The road to the PGA Tour got more inviting for college seniors earlier this year when the tour’s policy board approved the current PGA Tour U process that gives the top players an 18-month runway to begin their pro careers. The changes came about after the tour also instituted significant change to its qualifying process while also creating $20 million designated events with limited fields.