Nearly 800 miles separate TPC Twin Cities in Blaine and Karsten Kreek Golf Club, home of Oklahoma State's national championship golf teams. Yet the pipeline between the two is proving to be a natural fit.
Just months after leaving school early to pursue a professional golf career in 2019, Matthew Wolff got into the 3M Open on a sponsor exemption, then won the whole thing with a dramatic eagle on the 72nd hole. Another OSU sponsor exemption that year, Viktor Hovland, tied for 13th.
Sunday in Blaine, playing on a sponsor exemption in just his fourth event as a pro and second made cut, Austin Eckroat became the latest Cowboys golfer to break through. He shot a final-round 4-under 67 to tie for a career-best 16th place and earn $87,890.
Wolff, Rickie Fowler, Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt were other OSU alums to collect a paycheck Sunday afternoon.
"This is my first time in Minnesota and I really, really like it," Eckroat said. "It's been enjoyable. Since turning pro it's almost as if a switch went off. You kind of have to play well out here and that's helped my game out."
So, too have Wolff and Hovland.
Eckroat roomed with Wolff early in college and stayed with Hovland the past two years. When Wolff and Hovland turned pro and began dealing with travel schedules, sponsors and agencies, Eckroat took note.
"Matt and Viktor are really good, so they play good anywhere," he said. "Maybe it's a fluke I've been playing good, but I learned just by watching them."
One Gopher to another
By virtue of his Saturday 75, former Gophers golfer Erik van Rooyen plummeted down the leaderboard and was in Sunday's first group off the tee. He shot 67 on a mostly empty course, finishing in just under three and a half hours.
Maintenance workers and about 10 family and friends were the few witnesses as he wrapped up the tournament in a tie for 58th place at 2 under par.
"It was nice of them to come out at the break of dawn," van Rooyen said. The tournament was "disappointing overall from a result perspective but on the back nine we heard "Go Gophers!" almost every other hole so in that regard it was really fun to be back."
At least van Rooyen got four rounds in after missing the cut here last summer. That was the fate this week for recent Gophers graduate Angus Flanagan, who sunk to 11 over by Friday evening. Flanagan has yet to make a cut in four professional tournaments, two on the PGA Tour.
Van Rooyen is nine years older than Flanagan but the two are close.
"Angus had a wonderful Minnesota career and there can be a lot of expectations on you," van Rooyen said. "A part of it is a little self-inflicted. He just needs to chill. He has all the game in the world to be a fantastic pro golfer. I get the sense he feels he needs to come out and smash, and win everything. That's not necessary. He needs to find his feet and he'll do that. He'll be just fine."
Gary Woodland had dinner with Kansas pal and former Timberwolf Cole Aldrich before he left town with an 11th place finish in the 3M Open.
"He's taking credit, I can promise you that," Woodland said. "It was good to see him. I hadn't seen Cole in a long time. Us Jayhawks have to stick together."