In a sport increasingly polluted by money, the Korn Ferry Tour season finale—despite its measly $850,000 purse—has provided several must-see moments over the years.
After an unforgiving season, the top 25 players on the points list are presented PGA Tour membership cards in front of their friends and family.
While each player has his own story, the 25 graduates are momentarily united in taking one step closer to their goal of becoming one of the best—or at least a regular—on the PGA Tour.
The harsh reality is they won’t all make it.
We visualized data since 2014 on the respective journeys that 175 players took leading up to, and following, their Korn Ferry Tour graduation.
Each season within a player's journey is assigned a tour based on where they played the majority of their rounds.
Players with few rounds in a season (less than 10) are assigned Unknown—it is likely they were on mini tours, injured, or retired.
Players who qualify for the TOUR Championship—by finishing in the top 30 in the FedExCup Playoffs—are
assigned TOUR Champ Q to separate the high-performing graduates from average PGA Tour members.
Each row in the table shows the distribution of tours in that year relative to graduation (e.g. row 1, column 2 tells us that 18.9% of players were amateurs 2 years prior to graduation).
Hover on circles to isolate player paths.
Unfortunately, PGA Tour membership ends too soon for many graduates, as 41.3% (roughly 10 in 25) of
the graduating class ends up back on the Korn Ferry Tour—or worse—after an
unsuccessful post-grad campaign.
In the years that follow this first season, the percentage of graduates on the PGA Tour never rises above 63% (16 in 25).
It’s not all negative though.
Four percent (1 in 25) qualified for the TOUR Championship immediately after graduation, and the share making it to East Lake remains relatively high 5 years on.
This path—paved by the likes of Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler—shows young collegiate players
that it’s okay to spend time in the PGA Tour development system.
They can’t all be Jordan Spieth.
Three years post-graduation sees PGA Tour membership max out at 63%, with 7.2% (2 in 25) even qualifying for the TOUR Championship.
This small increase in membership and success is due to players
rebounding back from the Korn Ferry Tour after their initial failure to keep a Tour card, and the more talented
graduates—who are typically younger—finding their swagger among the top ranks of the PGA Tour.
Max Homa probably had the most interesting journey among the 175, at least on paper.
Homa twice graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour (2014, 2016)—and even had an additional “graduation” via the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Finals—before
finding his place on the PGA Tour and ultimately qualifying for the 2022 TOUR Championship.
Along with the relief, hope, and expectations that come with gaining PGA Tour membership, these are the realities facing the 25 Korn Ferry Tour graduates each year.
Perhaps in an effort to tamper expectations we should let them know that—on average—three of you will have quit professional golf in 5 years.
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