RESILIENT GRIFFIN TRACKS DOWN MYTHICAL PGA TOUR CARD

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After seven years of trying, VCU alumnus Lanto Griffin (’10) recently earned his PGA Tour card.

By Andy Lohman

On the 18th hole of the second stage of the 2016 Web.com Tour Q school (a qualifying tournament for the professional golf tour that serves as a pipeline of talent for the PGA Tour), former VCU standout Lanto Griffin hit a perfect putt that rolled right to the hole. And stopped right on the lip. He would miss advancing to the next stage by one shot.

“That was kind of a kick in the stomach,” Girffin said. “I had been playing the best golf of my life and that set me back.”

A single shot would make the difference again during the final stage of the 2017 Q school, but this time it would work in Griffin’s favor.

“I missed full status by one shot but I played the last 11 holes 5-under and birdied the last hole to go from two shots out [of the tour] to one, which I didn’t know how big that was at the time but that ended up getting me seven of the first eight starts, where if I had missed that putt I would have gotten one,” Griffin said.

While Griffin didn’t have full exempt status for the Web.com Tour for the whole season, he had gained entry into seven tournaments, from which point he could work his way up the money list to earn more starts later in the year. Griffin will go from being happy to have his foot in the door for the 2017 season, to rubbing elbows with the top players in the game as a PGA Tour Card holder for the full 2018 season.

“That birdie on that last hole in Orange County changed my life,” Griffin said.

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ZYLSTRA TO PLAY IN FIRST PGA EVENT

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Former Ram Ryan Zylstra will play in the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic this week.

Former VCU golfer Ryan Zylstra made a little noise this week.

On Monday, Zylstra fired a 64 in a one-round qualifier at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels, W.Va. to earn entry into the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It will be Zylstra’s first career PGA start. He carded 32 strokes on both the front and back nine and placed second in the field only to Daniel Obremski, who shot a course-record 62.

What makes Zylstra’s story even more impressive is that he had only recently returned to competitive golf, as he told the Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Disptach:

Zylstra, 33, has been to the Greenbrier tournament the past two years as a spectator when his mother-in-law purchased tickets. This time he’ll be inside the ropes as a competitor. He and wife Sarah live in Richmond, Va. He played in college for the VCU Rams and tried his hand once at the pro level, but things didn’t work out. He recently got the desire back to play.

“I had some success, then lost interest,” he said. “I didn’t progress the way I wanted and ran out of money. I caddied for a friend (Ted Brown) on the Web.com Tour and got the buzz back. I wanted to compete again.

“I took a shot here. I got off to a good start and rode the momentum.”

A native of Cambridge, Ontario, Zylstra played for the Rams from 2000-02 and was a member of CAA Championship teams in 2001 and 2002. Zylstra placed third overall at the 2002 CAA Championship. Later that season, he spurred the Rams to their first NCAA Championship appearance when he fired a blistering second-round 67 and placed sixth at the NCAA East Region Qualifier in Atlanta, Ga.

Zylstra will tee off in the Greenbriar’s opening round Thursday at 2 p.m. on Old White TPC No. 10 in a threesome that includes Steve LeBrun and Luke List.

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