Photo Courtesy of Korn Ferry Tour

A conversation with Bill Britton, a former PGA Tour professional and current teaching professional at Trump National – Colts Neck has seemingly made a huge impact on the career of Ryan McCormick, currently a rising star in the PGA Tour’s Korn Ferry Tour.

Thanks to his recent outstanding play, McCormick has upgraded his status on the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly known as the Tour) to where he is basically an automatic qualifier at any event he prefers to enter. Last week he finished tied for sixth in the King & Bear Classic in St. Augustine, Fla., and is currently competing this weekend in the Utah Championship in Farmington, Utah. 

McCormick traces his recent success back to a chance meeting with Britton at the 2019 Met Open at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. There, McCormick finished tied for third and Britton, who spent 15 years on the PGA Tour and is the head men’s golf coach at Monmouth University as well as director of instruction at Trump National in Colts Neck, was tied for 51st.

“It was during a rain delay at the Met Open and I really wanted to pick his brain. I knew Bill a little bit from being around my father, but never had a conversation with him,” said McCormick, the son of Mark McCormick, long-time head PGA professional at Suburban Golf Club and winner of the 2008 NJSGA Open Championship and the 2019 NJPGA/NJSGA Senior Open.

Britton himself has quite the resume. During his 15 years on the PGA Tour (1980-1995), he had one victory, the 1989 Centel Classic, and had 23 Top 10 finishes. In 1990, he tied for seventh in The Masters and was fourth in the PGA Championship.

“He told me how he prepared. Talking with Bill made me think of focusing a lot harder. He told me how he would practice putting at night in his hotel room, how much he hit wedges after a round, and how he would spend time practicing around the greens. After speaking with him, it made me realize that maybe I wasn’t doing everything I possibly could do to become a better player,” said McCormick, a resident of Middletown, N.J., who won the 2012 NJSGA Amateur Championship at Baltusrol after a fine career at St. John’ University. McCormick has also spent time on the PGA’s Asian and Canadian tours.

“It was great to talk with Bill. It’s hard to find people who have that kind of experience. His love for the game is infectious. After I was done playing, I followed him around out there (at the Met Open) to see how he goes about his business. I know he put in a lot of time out there. I knew what he said to me was correct.”  

Two weeks ago, McCormick ended in a tie for 14th place in the Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass, the first tour event after a shutdown due to COVID-19 that lasted more than three months.

That finish earned him an exemption into the King & Bear Classic. Off his recent performances and this week’s “reshuffling” by the Korn Ferry Tour, McCormick was able to elevate his status. Going into this weekend, he is in 54th place on the money list.

“Ryan strikes me as someone who is patient and open to learning and willing to do what he needs to do,” said Britton. “I love golf and it’s nice to talk to someone with a similar interest. For Ryan to play on the PGA Tour, he would have to be one of the top 156 players in the world and there’s only one way to get there and it’s through hard work. It’s nice to see a local kid do well. It can be done. I did it, and Jim McGovern, a real Jersey guy did it, and we didn’t go to the Leadbetter Academy or a place like that. Ryan has to realize that it can happen for him.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korn Ferry Tour has decided to combine the tour over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, which will benefit McCormick.

“There will be a combined 45 events and due to the reshuffling it is extremely likely I can play in whatever events I chose to play,” he stated.

A year ago, McCormick shot 66 in a Monday qualifier to gain entry into the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. He played in the 2017 PGA Tour Puerto Rico Open, also through a Monday qualifier.

“I worked really hard over the (COVID-19) break. I knew some guys would come out here rusty, so it would be a good time for me to strike. I’m more mature about being out here. I’m feeling very comfortable with my game. I just wanted to be better in all facets of my game,” said McCormick. “This past week in St. Augustine I felt I showed my potential.”

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