Say this about Sam Burns, he’s a man of his word. When the 2017 Jack Nicklaus Award winner as college player of the year at LSU was somehow left off this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team this past summer, he went to Twitter with a quick message: “Never been more motivated, thank you @USGA …”
The 21-year-old from Shreveport, La., proved it this past week at TPC Craig Ranch outside of Dallas while playing in second stage of Web.Com Tour Qualifying School, never shooting anything worse than a 68 in four rounds and claiming medalist honors by five strokes.
The top 20 finishers in this, along with four other sites, move on to the final stage next month, where they’re already guaranteed at last conditional status on the Web.com Tour but will be competing for a full card in 2018.
Even before the Walker Cup snub, Burns had announced he was leaving school after two seasons in Baton Rogue. The decision seems validated with this emphatic performance in Texas after two made cuts in two PGA Tour starts this fall via sponsor’s exemptions. As an amateur, Burns had finished T-6 in July at the Barbasol Championship.
Burns wasn’t the only former college player of the year to succeed at TPC Craig Ranch. Maverick McNealy shot an eight-under 280 to finish T-10, easily inside the top-20 line to also play his way into the Web.com Tour’s final stage.
McNealy’s decision whether or not to turn pro after graduating from Stanford this spring has been well-chronicled. He frequently talked about how his father, former co-founder of Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy, would challenge him on the pros and cons to help make sure Maverick was full committed to whatever decision he made, which helps give context to the former top-ranked amateur’s Twitter message:
The storyline wasn’t quite as happy for A.J. McInerney, the former UNLV player who became a hero during the shooting in Vegas last month. After a T-10 finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last weekend, McInerney struggled in Texas, finishing T-47 and failing to improve his conditional status on the Web.com Tour.