Canadians Etienne Papineau and Myles Creighton have already noticed that the fields on the Korn Ferry Tour are deeper than the events they’re used to playing. But they’re hanging in there two tournaments into the second-tier circuit’s season.
Papineau and Creighton are in the Korn Ferry Tour’s top 30 entering The Panama Championship this week, after earning their way onto the circuit from the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour Canada.
Papineau, who is 25th on the points list, said although there are great players on the third tier of men’s professional golf, it’s apparent that everyone is an excellent player on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I feel like any player can win at any time, to be honest,” said Papineau from Club de Golf de Panama in Panama City on Wednesday. “Every player is really good. I mean, they’re all here for the same reason: to get their PGA Tour card.”
Creighton won the PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s Inter Rapidisimo Golf Championship in Colombia last season and finished second overall in that circuit’s order of merit to move up to the Korn Ferry Tour. He agreed with Papineau that the Latinoamerica and Canada Tours — now merged into the PGA Tour Americas starting this year — had solid players at the top of their rankings but were more inconsistent down the standings.
“I think if you ran a PGA Tour Americas event on the courses that we played in the last two weeks, I think the winning score would be very similar,” said Creighton. “It’s just maybe to finish 20th or 25th is like a couple shots better, or to make a cut, it’s very marginally different.
“You grow with it, as well. You don’t tend to notice that the competition is a little tougher, because you’re becoming a better player and you’re adapting to that.”
Papineau, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., tied for 44th at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic on Jan. 17 to start the year and followed that up with a tie for 14th at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on Jan. 24.
Creighton, from Digby, N.S., tied for 25th at the Great Exuma Classic and followed that up with a tie for 27th at the Great Abaco Classic.
Although the way he plays his game remains the same, Papineau said he’s changing his approach off the course.
“I would say in my preparation, I think I’ll be able to be more careful with that,” he said. “It’s a longer season than PGA Tour Canada. We have 25 events during the season.
“It starts much earlier so I’m going to be playing pretty much all year up until October.”
Both Canadians are on the Korn Ferry Tour with limited status that only guarantees them spots in the first eight events of the year. There will be a reshuffle after the first four tournaments and, if they’re high enough in the standings, they’ll have their membership extended.
If they’re still in the top 30 at the end of the year they’ll earn cards on the PGA Tour, the top men’s golf circuit in the world.
“It’s so important to get off to a good start right from the beginning,” said Creighton. “You want to play well early and put yourself in a good position early to then build off that. You don’t want to be playing from behind in that sense.
“It just gives you a little comfort knowing that you’ve made a cut, you’ve accumulate a couple of points, and you’re in a good spot to start the year.”
Papineau and Creighton will be joined at Club de Golf de Panama by Sudarshan Yellamaraju of Mississauga, Ont., Edmonton’s Wil Bateman and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont. Yellamaraju is tied for 95th on the Korn Ferry Tour rankings, while Gligic and Bateman have yet to play on the second-tier circuit this season.