PGA Tour rookie David Skinns enjoying fresh start at 39 after a long golfing journey | Golf News


David Skinns holds his PGA Tour card after winning the Korn Ferry Tour's Pinnacle Bank Championship

David Skinns holds his PGA Tour card after winning the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship

Jim McCabe of pgatour.com takes a look at the career journey of Englishman David Skinns who is a rookie on the PGA Tour at the age of 39…

Bogeys, missed cuts, and patches of indifferent play have always been there. They are acceptable because they are a beguiling part of golf.

But self-doubt and a lack of motivation have never been there. They are unacceptable because David Skinns has never let them be part of the journey.

“I have never lost faith,” he said. “I have always believed that it’s on me to find a way.”

The “way” continues this week in the idyllic setting of Port Royal Golf Course that provides incomparable island vistas of turquoise ocean water. You will excuse Skinns, however, if he embraces the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in a different context, without losing himself in the views.

“Every opportunity you get is big. I’ve stayed on the correct side of things, always being able to focus on the next tournament,” said Skinns. “And I’m relishing this opportunity.”

Had modern GPS been at the touch of our fingers 20 years ago, Skinns’ step-by-step directions from Lincoln to the PGA Tour would have looked something like this:

Your journey will start at Hillside Golf Club in Southport, England, where you will fall to David Inglis, 1 up in the final of the 2000 British Boys Amateur.

“From there, cross the Atlantic bound for Knoxville, Tennessee, to spend four seasons at the University of Tennessee, before wending through about two dozen states and hundreds of towns while playing on the Hooters Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour.

“Finally, on September 16, 2021, at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, you will arrive as a member of the PGA Tour. Length of trip: roughly 1.5 million miles via automobiles and planes, and approximately 20 years.”

It has been a daunting trip, with more detours than he ever would have imagined, but Skinns insists he has no regrets.

“No, not at all,” said the Englishman, who earned his Tour card by winning once and recording five other top 10s to finish top 50 in the Korn Ferry Tour’s expanded 2020-21 season.

“Obviously there were points in my career when I had to take a good, hard look at things,” he says. “But everyone who has a dream has to follow some hard roads and I’m able to stand here and say I’m ready to keep the process going.”

Skinns enjoyed an excellent season on the Korn Ferry Tour last term

Skinns enjoyed an excellent season on the Korn Ferry Tour last term

That is good news to University of Central Florida coach Bryce Wallor, who was director of instruction at the University of Tennessee during Skinns’ stint in Knoxville (2001-05). Wallor knows all about Skinns’ resume – NCAA Freshman of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, SEC Championship winner (“I walked all 54 holes when he beat JB Holmes”), three-time winner and Hooters Tour Player of the Year in 2008, two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner.

It is an impressive list of accomplishments. Still, Wallor’s respect and admiration for Skinns is built on character, not golf feats. Case in point, the 2017 Albertsons Boise Open, when Skinns opened 69-66 to sit joint-ninth and just five off the lead in a tournament that could have earned him a PGA Tour card if he kept going.

He did not keep going. Skinns’ wife, Kristin, went into labour, and he withdrew to be home for the birth of their middle son, Bennett. (Brayden, 7, and Colt, 2, are the others.)

“David has a lot of great nuances, if you study the decisions he’s made and why he’s made them,” said Wallor. “That’s why I’m really happy for him.”

Wallor is not alone, because Skinns’ saga also hits home for Stephen Cox, a fellow Englishman and PGA Tour rules official who also grew up in Woodhall Spa, about a 30-mile drive from Lincoln. Though 10 years older than Skinns, Cox was playing “county” golf in the Lincolnshire amateur circles when Skinns’ talents started to blossom.

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“You had to be really, really good to be considered able to play collegiately in America back then,” said Cox. “And David was progressing very quickly.”

Cox saw Skinns’ skills firsthand in the Lincolnshire Amateur when they were paired together along with James Crampton.

“My recollection is that as a group we were something like 20 under,” Cox says. “I played well, but I finished third; James and David went in a play-off that David won.”

Fast-forward more than 20 years and Cox was at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, watching the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship on August 15, shouting to his wife to come watch his Lincolnshire mate close the deal. Two off the lead through 54 holes, Skinns made four early birdies, then held on to shoot 67 and win by one.

It pushed Skinns to 22nd on the points list and pretty much assured him a PGA Tour card for the first time in his career.

Skinns on his way to victory at the Pinnacle Bank Championship

Skinns on his way to victory at the Pinnacle Bank Championship

“He had me on the edge of my seat,” said Cox, who will be officiating while Skinns tees it up at this week’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship. “It’s a great opportunity for him.”

It is also well deserved, said Wallor, who credits, “Kristin’s incredible support” as being as integral to Skinns’ success as his skill set.

“He’s always had strong clubhead speed and has always had the physical attributes to hit it long and be a great ball-striker,” said Wallor. “But he’s older; he’s more patient.”

Skinns thought briefly about returning to England and trying to play professionally in Europe, but his goal was always the PGA Tour. That seemed within reach after a successful year on the Hooters Tour in 2008, when his fellow competitors included Kevin Kisner, Russell Knox, and Gary Woodland.

All of them made it to the Tour long before Skinns.

“Never did I say, ‘why not me?’ I just became more focused,” said Skinns, who kicked around the mini tours, played in Canada, and got into a number of KFT tournaments between 2009-2016.

“Sometimes, the stars are just not aligned for these young kids,” said Cox.

And sometimes, the pieces fall into place more slowly. It was not until 2017 that Skinns, then 35, landed on the Korn Ferry Tour full-time. He had a second-place finish that season, won the next, and realised his dream in 2020-21.

Fashionably late, perhaps, but there is a bigger picture in play: After clearing so many hurdles, Skinns may be more prepared than ever. “There’s a timing element to all of this,” he said. “And I’m ready for this.”

Watch Skinns in action at this week’s Bermuda Championship live on Sky Sports Golf – he carded a four-under 67 in the first round.

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