HARTFORD, Conn. – Eighteen months after being stuck in golfing purgatory, Cameron Young is headed to the PGA Tour.
Young, a former Bridgeport resident who now lives in Scarborough, N.Y., was one of 25 players to earn PGA Tour cards for the 2021-22 season on Sunday when he finished 19th on the points list after the conclusion of the Korn Ferry Tour’s final regular-season event, the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna in Omaha, Neb.
Young earned his new lofty status thanks largely to becoming the 10th player in Korn Ferry Tour history but first since Michael Putnam in 2013 to win back-to-back tournaments, the AdventHealth Championship and Evans Scholars Invitational, in May. The first victory came the same week that Phil Mickelson stole the headlines when he captured the PGA Championship to become the oldest winner of a major (50 years old, now 51). Young led or co-led all eight rounds in his two wins, setting a Tour record for consecutive rounds to hold such status.
Yet, only a year ago, Young entered the Korn Ferry Tour finale “incredibly frustrated” with no status after graduating in 2019 from Wake Forest, where he had won five times, and the Mackenzie Tour in Canada shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was playing mini-tours and Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers, hoping for a shot at a bigger paycheck. But he had failed to qualify on four consecutive Mondays and wasn’t sure if he wanted to try a fifth. But since it was the last Monday qualifier for a while, he decided to give it another shot rather than play another mini-tour event where he could play well and still not make a good check.
The decision proved prophetic and profitable as he qualified and then tied for 11th in the Pinnacle Bank Championship in his first Korn Ferry Tour start, kickstarting a run over the last year that wouldn’t have been possible in a normal season where the Omaha event is the season finale and doesn’t have a Monday qualifier.
“It’s a life-changing, course-altering deal, and I feel really fortunate honestly to get in when I did,” Cameron Young told pgatour.com at the time. “I know in a normal year without COVID and wraparound season, I wouldn’t have gotten those consecutive starts with the finish I had in Omaha last year. So lucky to get in when I did and now that it’s a year ago and I’ve played a full Korn Ferry Tour season, it is hard to imagine what I would have been doing.
“But I know I have friends that are trying, that are playing Monday qualifiers and mini-tour events and looking back I know how much I don’t miss that. It’s a hard road and to get where I’ve gotten, I feel really grateful to have done what I did at that time and to have it worked out the way it did.”
Without that decision, Young, 24, would have been making plans for the first stage of Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School. Instead, he used the T11 as a springboard to get in the following week, setting off a run of four consecutive top-15s that ended with a tie for second in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship that secured him fully exempt status for the remainder of the season.
Young made the most of his new-found status, as after a slow start to 2021, he got red hot in May, winning by four strokes in the Advent Health Championship and by five in the Evans Scholar Invitational. He also was the medalist in the U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Rye, N.Y., earning a spot in his second national championship at Torrey Pines GC in San Diego, Calif., where he shot 8-over-par 150 to miss the cut.
“There’s times where it doesn’t seem that easy and there’s times where it does,” Young said. “Before that, I’d gone through one of those time periods where making a cut doesn’t seem easy. You never know when things like that are going to happen. It maybe didn’t feel like it was that close, but as soon as it does happen and stuff starts going your way, it’s hard to feel like it’s ever going to end. Those two weeks felt so very easy. I felt very in control.”
Those two weeks ultimately paved the way to the regular-season finale, where he missed the cut after shooting 2-over 144 but only dropped from 18th to 19th on the points list.
“I’m sure it’ll be emotional. It’s a big step for me,” Young said before the finale. “It’ll be really special. There’s a lot of people around me that have worked very hard on my behalf. I think to be able to share that with the people closest to me is the best part because it’s just as much theirs as it is mine. I think that will just be a really special time for me to share that with them and my caddie who was the best man in my wedding and my best buddy from school.”
It’s especially special for Young’s father, David, the head professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough. David was instrumental in helping Cameron become an outstanding junior player, enjoy success in college and win the New York State Open.
“I’m sure he’ll be emotional,” Young said. “I can’t even imagine for a parent to have experience that, especially because he’s been my coach my whole life. He’s taught me just about everything I know about the game and how to play it and how to swing a club. So, I think it’ll be a lot of hard work on his part and a lot of emotions for him because he’s seen me go both ways. He’s seen me at my very lows and at my very highs. I think it’ll be really special for him and my mom to be here and be part of that.”
David Young said his son is “awfully focused” on the golf course, and getting married to Kelsey on March 6 helped.
“There’s another part of his life now that’s not attached to how well he plays every day,” David said. “It’s been a joy to him, and we’ve seen that in his personality. But on the golf course, he’s pretty well focused and works really hard. It doesn’t look like he’s having much fun, but the results are fun.”
Even after he clinched a place to play, Cameron was intent on making a few changes.
“The changes weren’t major, but the swing felt a lot different,” David said. “Now it doesn’t feel awkward so he’s more focused on making shots and less on what he has to do to make a swing, which I think has been a big help. … He definitely has some goals. Some are pretty big and kind of longshots and others are pretty attainable, a bunch of them more now than a month ago.”
It was his father and the rest of his support system like his wife and caddie, Scott McKean, who helped get Young through the lows, continually reminding him that his time was coming. McKean is a college buddy who played club hockey at Wake Forest but is also an accomplished golfer who grew up caddying, competed in the Philadelphia area and occasionally still tries to Monday qualify for Korn Ferry Tour events.
“It’s great,” Young said of the relationship with McKean. “We spend more time together than probably either of us would really like even though we’re really good friends. We have a good time. It makes it easier when you’re hanging out with somebody you enjoy for weeks and months at a time.
“Even when it’s going poorly, they’re your biggest advocates to remind you that it’s possible and that you’re doing all the right things. It’s just a matter of time and when it works. Thankfully for me that time was (in Omaha) last year, and it couldn’t have worked out really any better. I have a really great group of people around me that will remind me of that if things are going poorly. Eventually it all evens out, and for me it all started last year.”
Now Young will be able to compete against the best players in the world, including former Wake Forest teammate Will Zalatoris, who finished second in the Masters in his debut in April.
“I think I’ve proved to myself what I’m capable of,” Young said. “I don’t really care about proving what I can do to everyone else. It was important that I figured out I was good enough to win. And to do it again, that was just validation, and the more of that you get, the better.”