AVONDALE, La. – For a while Sunday, it was the former LSU Tiger you’d least expect who was on the first page of the leaderboard at the Zurich Classic: Ken Looper.
Not David Toms, a former winner of the event.
Not John Peterson, one of the game’s up-and-coming stars.
Looper’s presence was unlikely, you see, because he shot 62 in a Monday qualifier just to earn a spot in his hometown event.
Because he had banked less than $2,500 on the NGA Tour this season.
Because in his first career PGA Tour start, Looper not only made the cut (after a Friday 66), but found himself two shots off the lead after an eagle on the second hole Sunday at TPC Louisiana.
Joked his friend and former teammate John Peterson: “He said that if he won, he was going to tell the media that he’s going to move out of his mother’s house finally.”
Those plans are put on hold, for now, after Looper played his remaining 16 holes in 1 over par, eventually finishing joint 21st. He came to the par-5 18th with a chance to finish inside the top 10 and earn a berth in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, but blocked his tee shot into the pond.
Needing to hole his fourth shot from about 250 yards, Looper’s ball caught the edge of the cup and stayed out.
After his surprising week, Looper said he likely will play more one-day qualifiers, despite the cutthroat, go-low-or-go-home ethos.
“Moving forward, it gives me a lot of confidence that I can play out here,” Looper said. “Hopefully I can get another opportunity to show that I can compete in a future event.”
Peterson will get that opportunity, by virtue of his T-8 finish playing on a sponsor exemption in New Orleans. Even after his final round the former NCAA champion was unsure where to head next. After all, his car was already packed for Athens, Ga., for this week’s Web.com Tour event. By playing on the PGA Tour, he had slipped from 35th to 45th on the developmental money list and needed to reverse the trend.
But all it takes is one week on the PGA Tour to change a career trajectory. Ultimately, that chance was too appealing to pass up. You can find him in Charlotte.