RALEIGH David Chung is 23, a fledgling professional golfer who soon will make his Web.com Tour debut in the Rex Hospital Open.
Billy Casper, 81, has 51 PGA Tour victories, won three major championships and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
But the two, however different in age and golf achievement, shared a nice moment Wednesday during a golf outing at TPC Wakefield Plantation: Chung had a hole-in-one, with Casper one of the witnesses.
After holing out a pitching wedge from 152 yards on the second hole, a smiling Chung got a high-five from the hall of famer. Once the ball was retrieved from the cup, Casper signed and dated it and wrote “The Ace.”
For Chung, who said it was his third career hole-in-one, it should make for quite a keepsake and memory. Casper, who is co-chairing this year’s Rex event, said he has had 24 aces but seemed just as happy about Chung’s third.
Chung, a Fayetteville native and former Stanford All-American, is hoping the tournament June 20-23 will provide more good times. He’ll be playing on a sponsor’s exemption and looking to cash in on his opportunity in the $625,000 event.
“Starting out as a professional golfer is like starting all over again,” Chung said. “You don’t have exemptions (and) sponsorships everywhere. You have to earn your way, your status.
“Whatever you did in your junior and amateur career is great but you’re kind of starting all over. To get an exemption in this tournament gives me a foot in the front door. Hopefully I can take advantage of it.”
Chung had some big moments as an amateur, finishing as runner-up in the 2004 U.S. Junior at age 14 and winning the 2009 North & South Amateur in Pinehurst. He lost in the match-play finals of the 2010 U.S. Amateur to Peter Uihlein, but as runner-up gained berths in both the 2011 Masters and U.S. Open.
In late 2010 and early 2011, Chung was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. He was on the winning U.S. team in the Palmer Cup matches and later competed in the World Amateur Team Championship.
In practice rounds before the 2011 Masters, Chung played with Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel, who went on to win the green jacket. Chung missed the cut, as he did in the U.S. Open.
“I was taking final exams during the U.S. Open, so I’d go back to my hotel and take exams,” Chung said, smiling. “During the Masters, it was the beginning of the quarter. I went back to school and I had missed two weeks of school. One professor said, ‘Who are you, are you in my class?’ I said I just played in the Masters. He said, ‘Oh, well you’re already five chapters behind.’ ”
So much for notoriety. Now, it’s all about playing golf.
Chung did not make it through the first stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament – the “Q School” – last fall. That, he said, was a bit humbling.
“Coming out of college you kind of have this cocky, arrogant attitude and really don’t know what to expect,” he said.
Chung has played on the eGolf Tour and Hooters Tour while trying to Monday qualify for Web.com Tour events. In March, he won his first pro event – the Orlando Open on the Fore the Players mini-tour in Florida. A final-round 65 earned him $10,000.
Chung has been a traveling man, putting 22,000 miles on his Honda Accord in the past eight months. Six-hour drives are the norm, he said.
“It’s all part of the process,” he said. “You want to build your game but make money at the same time. In professional golf, you have to show up every week. It’s very difficult, but it’s a nice job to have.”
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