Every week can be a life-changing week when you’re a professional golfer. You’re always 72 holes away from a victory that provides more spoils than refrigerators after a hurricane.
But the next three weeks will be crucial for three golfers with Treasure Coast and Space Coast connections: Billy Kennerly (Stuart), Nick Lindheim (Satellite Beach) and Joey Garber (Vero Beach).
The trio qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-tournament series that determines if they can play next year on the main stage of the PGA Tour or remain on golf’s second tier.
It’s an annual rite, but this year, because of COVID-19, it carries double importance. With many events canceled last year because of the pandemic, Korn Ferry officials decided to freeze the usual promotions/demotions and so players have been compiling points for two seasons.
These guys are not youngsters — Lindheim is 36, Garber 29 and Kennerly 28 — in a sport where college graduates are coming out ready to win.
The threesome knows how important it is to finish in the top 25 in a field that includes the top 75 finishers on the Korn Ferry Tour, players who ranked 126-200 on the PGA Tour and others who have had medical exemptions.
Then again, professional golfers are used to bucking the odds — they usually have to beat 143 (or 155) other players to win an event.
“I have just one goal,” Kennerly said. “To be in the top 25.”
Each of the three has an interesting back story.
Kennerly grew up playing baseball, but switched to golf, at the recommendation of his father, after he had Tommy John surgery. He played in a PGA Tour event when he was 17 — he qualified for the Wyndham Championship because he won a junior event — but has played in just one other Tour event since, and that was six years ago.
“The biggest takeaway was (PGA Tour players) are not that much better, they are just more consistent and they know ow to manage their games better,” said Kennerly, who ranked 47th on the Korn Ferry Tour with four top-10 finishes in 36 starts while earning more than $200,000.
Lindheim has been playing catchup since the California native picked up the game after high school. He made up the ground by 2017 when he became the oldest rookie (32) on the PGA Tour.
Now he has the experience advantage — he has played in 65 PGA Tour events and has made it through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals three times. Lindheim suffered panic attacks last year, but seems to have that under control.
“My goal is to go enjoy competing because I certainly don’t want to sit in an office,” Lindheim said. “Sometimes when you have something, you don’t realize how lucky you are. So many guys would give their left foot to be in my position.”
Garber, with his rock-star hair, has played in 29 PGA Tour events, earning more than $520,000. But has watched many of his teammates from the University of Georgia (Harris English, Kevin Kisner, Russell Henley, Brian Harmon) win PGA Tour events while he’s struggled to reach golf’s center stage.
Garber has to find his game, though. Dealing with injuries, he has missed the cut or withdrew from his last four events, and he barely finished inside the top 75 (he was 72nd).
“I know I can do what they have done,” Garber said.
Starting this week in Boise, Idaho, and then at events in Columbus, Ohio, and Newburgh, Indiana, dreams will be lived or crushed for these three guys and more than 150 others.
Lives will change. Will it be theirs?
The 10th annual Mayors Cup will be held Aug. 29 at Sandridge Golf Club in Vero Beach.
Craig Dolch is a TCPalm.com correspondent with more than 30 years of golf writing experience.
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