Mini-tour grinder makes Open field again


BALL GROUND, Ga. – Next week, Ryan Nelson was planning to head to Wichita for the Tour Monday qualifier. And if that didn’t work out, he would simply tee it up at the NGA event in Raleigh.

Oh, the glamorous life of an itinerant mini-tour grinder.

Except now, for the second time in three years, Nelson will get promoted to the big tour, if only for a week. He once again earned co-medalist honors at Hawks Ridge Golf Club, finishing the 36-hole qualifier at 11-under 133.

“I don’t know – it just fits my eye,” Nelson said Monday. “I really enjoy this golf course. I don’t know why, because it’s a brutal walk. I haven’t even brought anyone over with me yet.”

Two years ago here, Nelson shot rounds of 66-66 to punch his ticket to his first major. When it came time for his Thursday tee time at Congressional, he said, “I could barely remember what end of the club to hold on to.” He shot 75-78 to miss the cut.

Nelson played college golf at Portland but struggled to find his footing as a professional. Since summer 2011, however, he has recorded four victories on the eGolf Tour, the most of any player.

Asked if he felt close to taking his game from the mini-tour ranks to the big tours, Nelson said: “If I can get my putting squared away … though of course that’s the name of the game at that level.”

Nelson knows little about Merion and “may have to play a little computer game” for a scouting report. In fact, he said he hasn’t even traveled north of Virginia to play golf.

Forget Wichita or Raleigh. Next week, Nelson is headed to Philly.