Trevor Werbylo jumped into a lake fully clothed last week, and it had nothing to do with fishing, skin diving or falling off a boardwalk.
It was a programmed celebratory plunge in Lake Charles, Louisiana, after which Werbylo was presented with a check for $ 135,000, his reward for winning the Korn Ferry Tour’s Lake Charles Championship.
So what if they ruined a good set of golf clothes? Werbylo’s quick emergence as one of golf’s rising names attracted sponsorship deals with Ralph Lauren, Footjoy, Titleist and Ping.
At this time a year ago, Werbylo was a force in Arizona’s climb to its first Pac-12 Championship since 2004. Since then, he’s played opposite Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama in the PGA Tour’s $ 7 million Fortinet Championship, been awarded a sponsor’s exemption in June’s RBC Canadian Open – won last year by Rory McIlroy – and finished No. 1 at the Forme Tour’s 2021 Championship.
“I’m soaking it all in,” Werbylo said Wednesday as he prepared for the ongoing Savannah Championship in Georgia. “It’s been a big jump for me, but I know I’m getting closer to playing on the PGA Tour.”
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The Korn Ferry Tour is the golf’s equivalent of Triple-A baseball. You might say that Werbylo is like a 23-year-old ballplayer hitting .385, banging on the door of the big leagues. Those who finish in the Top 25 of the Korn Ferry Tour’s year-long points list will earn playing privileges on the 2023 PGA Tour.
“At times I try to pinch myself at all of this,” says Roger Werbylo, Trevor’s father, Retired from a career as a two-time state Championship baseball coach at Canyon del Oro High School to the 1992 NJCAA Championship game. “Trevor has worked so hard for so long. He is just so determined. ”
Werbylo is the No. 3 money-Winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, $ 208,000, but last week’s triumph at Lake Charles went beyond dollars and cents. It was a moment-in-time, a bond shared by father-caddy and son that will live forever.
After shooting 63-64 in the final two rounds, taking a two-shot lead, Trevor watched as Kim Seong-hyeon birdied 17 and 18 to force a playoff. Almost nothing in the three-hole playoff Suggested Werbylo would prevail.
His approach shot on the second hole left, far behind the grandstands. Somehow, he chipped it over the obstacles to within 20 feet of the pin and made the putt to tie Kim. His father watched not in amazement – he has seen Trevor scramble with the best of golfers on any tour – but with pride.
“Each hole looked like it was done,” Roger says. “But he wasn’t. You can’t tell him he’s done. He’s not going to go away. He just scrambles so well. ”
Werbylo made a 15-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win. Typical of his low-key demeanor, they didn’t do a dance, bow to the crowd or point to the Heavens.
“Oh, I did a fist pump or two a few holes earlier,” he says. “I didn’t do anything crazy. I’m not too emotional. But I have a great appreciation for what it takes to win. The competition out here is exceptional. ”
Werbylo’s climb through the Forme and Korn Ferry Tours hasn’t followed the predictable golf-Prodigy, a country-club route of many of the game’s leading names. When he won the Forme Tour’s Fuzzy Zoeller Classic last summer, his first professional Victory in just his third event, it matched the number of victories Werbylo won at Arizona: 1.
When Werbylo began golfing at 12, they did so at the Dorado Golf Club on East Speedway. It’s a short, executive course with 10 for 3s and eight for 4s.
“We’d buy Weekly or monthly cards at Dorado that would allow Trevor to play several times a week for just a few dollars,” Roger Werbylo remembers. “We’d drop him off and he’d play as long as he wanted. He’d call me or my wife, Colleen, to come and get him when he was done. Some days he’d be there eight or 10 hours. He loved it. ”
After that, Werbylo’s took advantage of Tucson’s historic Ricki Rarick junior golf program at the city’s Municipal courses. Trevor could play those five courses for $ 5 now afternoons. It’s the same route followed by Werbylo’s Tucson predecessors on the PGA Tour: Rincon High School’s Michael Thompson and Sahuaro High School’s Rich Barcelo.
“We couldn’t afford lessons or to pay fees at the big-name courses,” Roger says. “The junior golf program in Tucson was just fabulous for Trevor.”
By the time Trevor was a freshman baseball player at Salpointe, following his father’s path, Roger kept hearing that his Tiger Woods-inspired son was better at golf than baseball.
“I can evaluate a baseball player but not a golfer,” Roger says. “People who knew golf would keep telling me, ‘He’s really good.’ So I went on what they said. ”
Trevor Werbylo’s baseball career ended. He became an All-City golfer as a freshman and improved so much that Arizona Coach Jim Anderson offered him a Scholarship. Few, if anyone, Predicted that Werbylo would finish his four years at Arizona with a career scoring average of 71.4, better than the UA’s PGA Tour regulars such as Rory Sabbatini, Ricky Barnes, Jim Furyk and Robert Gamez.
Werbylo is essentially self-taught, which is almost unheard of in pro golf. He doesn’t employ a swing coach.
He has taken a different kind of advice from his aunt, five-time LPGA Tour Champion Cindy Rarick, a former Sahuaro High School standout.
“I take lessons from the way Cindy lives, how to live a successful life,” Trevor says. “Her work ethic is amazing; she’s up early every morning and is very productive. She gives me advice on the mental side of the game, and how to create relationships with sponsors and those involved in the operation of each golf tournament. ”
Roger Werbylo caddied for his son at Lake Charles last week and will do so a few more times during the remaining five months of the Korn Ferry Tour season. But unlike many caddies, there is no talk of strategy between the Werbylos.
“I never talk golf with Trevor on the course,” his dad says. “I can’t give him advice anyway. He pretty much doesn’t need advice. I started golf late in life; I play for $ 99 a month at Forty Niner Country Club. I’m just there for moral support, cleaning off his clubs. ”
Roger Werbylo drove back to Tucson after Sunday’s Victory in Louisiana. Trevor Flew to Georgia His caddy this week is DJ Niichel, a former golfer at CDO and a Graduate of West Point, who will fill in for a few weeks until his sister, Dani, Trevor’s fiance, wlil become his permanent caddy.
“Dani is completing her Master’s degree at the UA,” says Trevor. “She was my caddy when I played in the PGA Tour event in California last year. We’re getting married in December; we work together on the golf course. I am really looking forward to playing a full year on tour. It’s so motivating; this is what i want to do for the rest of my life. It’s a dream come true. ”
Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ ghansen711