Hovland, Ventura earn PGA status

It’s in the cards

Viktor Hovland

Photo courtesy of the Professional Golf Association
Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images
Viktor Hovland hits a drive during the Korn Ferry Finals, a set of three tournaments at the end of the PGA season that enable amateurs to earn PGA Tour cards and play in the professional elite tournaments. Hovland tied for second in the final tournament, clinching his PGA card.

Michael Kleiner,
The Norwegian American

It’s a small card, but it means business: membership in the prestigious Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and admission to the elite-level tournaments.

Viktor Hovland, who turned 22 on Sept. 18, and Kristoffer Ventura, 24, took different routes, but the fellow Norwegians, former teammates at Oklahoma State University (OSU), gained admittance this summer. In so doing, they became the eighth and ninth Norwegian men professional golfers ever, and the second and third to attain PGA status. Henrik Bjørnstad was first in 2005.

Three Norwegian women—Suzann Pettersen, Marianne Skarpnord, and Caroline Westrup—have played on the LPGA Tour. At one time Pettersen ranked second in the world.

Hovland received his PGA Tour card by finishing among the top 25 point-earners in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a set of three tournaments at the end of the PGA season. Ventura earned his by doing the same during the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season (a set of 24 events throughout the year). Hovland is rated the top rookie to watch, Ventura the third. Ventura graduated from OSU in 2018 as a three-time All-American, helping the Cowboys to the 2018 national championship.

Hovland cruises in

That was Hovland’s sophomore year, but that summer began a whirlwind 12 months for the perpetually smiling Oslo native. Last August, he won the U.S. Amateur at the prestigious Pebble Beach Golf Links course with a dominating performance, defeating Devon Bling 6-and-5 in the 36-hole final (meaning he had won six more holes than Bling with five remaining), receiving the Havemeyer Trophy, previously won by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, and Bobby Jones. It also entitled him to exemptions to play in some PGA tournaments.

Back in Stillwater, he became a first-team All-American for the second straight season, three-time first-team All-Big-12 honoree, recipient of the Ben Hogan Award in May, as the “top men’s college golfer taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions over the past 12 months,” and top-ranked amateur in the world.

In April, Hovland tied for 32nd at the Master’s, but had the lowest amateur score, earning him low amateur status distinction and the Silver Cup. Then, at the U.S. Open, he tied for 12th, becoming the first player to have the lowest amateur score at both events in the same year since Matt Kuchar in 1998. His four-round total of 280 made him the first amateur to card 280 or better at the U.S. Open. Entering Korn Ferry, he had four straight top-16 finishes. Then, he earned his PGA card in the last Korn Ferry Tournament, the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco, taking the lead with a third-round 64, then recorded a three-under-par 68 to tie for second. In 10 events, he is a total 74 under par and has already garnered $678,035.

“It feels pretty good,” said Hovland on the PGA website. “I was fortunate enough to get some exemptions on the PGA Tour early out of college, and that’s where you like to be playing. It’s a lot of fun knowing that I can play there for a little longer. We’ll see what I can do with a full season on the PGA Tour.”

Ventura overcomes adversity

Kristoffer Ventura

Photo courtesy of the Professional Golf Association: Getty Images; Ben Jared / GettyImages
Kristoffer Ventura follows through in round one of the Korn Ferry Tournament Championship presented by United Leasing and Finance.

Ventura, born in Mexico to a Norwegian mother and Mexican father, won his first tournament at six, then at 12, moved to that hot bed of golf, Rygge, Norway.

“In Mexico, it was tough, because everything was (paid) out of pocket,” Ventura said on the PGA website. “It wasn’t until we made it to Norway that it all really came together. I won with the National team and we started traveling. All our expenses were paid for, so that’s when I really started developing my game and playing against the best players in the world.”

After graduating OSU, he had to earn his way into the 2018 Korn Ferry Tournament by playing in three prequalifying tournaments. Needing just a shot in The Final Stage to continue his Korn Ferry membership, he suffered an emergency appendectomy a week before the event. He still competed in all four rounds, but his 286 left him two strokes from last.

He now had to earn his way back, and played in more than 12 qualifying tournaments. The turning point came in June when he received a sponsor invitation to play in the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation in South Carolina, a Korn Ferry event. In the second round he shot a 10-under 60. He finished tied for third. Then, came a sudden-death victory in the Utah Championship and a win in the Pinnacle Bank Championships in Nebraska, raising him to sixth in the Top 25. His third place in the WinCo Foods Portland Open in early August got him the precious card. In 11 events this year, he has been even or under par eight times, is a total 63 under par, and netted $336,234.

“It all happened for me when I stopped thinking about results and what I had to do and how fast I wanted to get to the PGA Tour,” he said. “I decided that when it happens, it happens. I decided to focus on only what I could control and practice on just doing my best. I told everyone around me that if I just keep giving it 100%, I’ll be happy no matter the outcome.

“The PGA Tour is next level. Making it back there is all I have been thinking about since I played there. The competition is so good. It really does showcase the best players in the world.”

This article originally appeared in the September 20, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.