BY MIKE FIELDS
Josh Teater was already smitten with golf in the 1990s when the Bank One Senior Classic was played annually at Kearney Hill Links in Lexington.
But seeing legends like Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd in person, and walking the fairways with the pros as a standard bearer, boosted his enthusiasm for the game.
“My interest in golf had already been sparked,” Teater said, “but that probably took it to another level.”
So imagine how Teater will feel this summer when the PGA TOUR comes to town and he’s one of the pros teeing it up, and perhaps making an impression on some wide-eyed junior golfer.
Teater will be in the field for the Barbasol Championship July 16-22 at Champions at Keene Trace in Jessamine County.
The Henry Clay and Morehead State graduate appreciates tournament director Brooks Downing giving him an exemption into the tournament.
“It means a lot that they’re including me this first year,” Teater said. “It’s a great opportunity. Hopefully, a lot of my friends and family will be out there.”
Teater, 39, is currently playing on the Web.com Tour, trying to earn his way back to the PGA TOUR.
At the end of the season the top 25 money winners will get PGA TOUR cards. Teater is currently 41st on the Web.com list with $45,281, only $13,000 out of 25th place. (Another 25 cards will go to those players who earn the most cumulative money in the four Finals events.)
Teater is confident he has the game to make it back to the big tour because he’s already been there, done that.
For 4½ seasons, starting in 2010, he played well enough on the PGA TOUR to make the cut in 94 of 144 tournaments and earn $4.5 million. His best showing was a tie for second in the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open. He had three other top-6 finishes in 2012 and ’13.
He’s been on the Web.com Tour the past few years working to put all the pieces of his game together again.
“It’s kind of been the same the last three years,” he said. “I play pretty solid, but I’ll have three really good rounds, and one just OK.
“I can’t put my finger on it. I still drive the ball pretty good. My putting kind of went away for a while, but it’s come back. And my iron play has been pretty good.
“It’s just a hard game, and there are a lot of great players these days, but I know I’ve still got it.”
Teater’s last PGA TOUR event was the the RSM Classic last November. That tournament is hosted by Davis Love III and is played near Teater’s home in Sea Island, Ga.
That’s where he spent this past week, at home with his wife Ashley and their two young sons — Bain, who’ll be 4 in June, and Brooks, who’s almost 7 months.
Bain has already tried his hand at golf. “But he likes to hit them lefty,” Teater said with a laugh.
Bain is getting an earlier start that his dad did. Teater didn’t take up golf until he was 12, and he was still better at baseball in high school.
He credits the Larry Gilbert junior golf program for setting him on the path to success.
(It was fitting that in 2001, when Teater was 22, he won the Larry Gilbert Open. He fired a course-record 61 in the final round at Kearney Hill, the course where he had been inspired by those Bank One Senior Classic stars.)
“That’s why I think the Barbasol (Championship) will be good for junior golf,” Teater said. “Having all those great golfers come to town for everybody to see.”
Teater admits to being a little surprised that the PGA TOUR is coming back to Kentucky for the first time in almost 60 years. Last year he chatted with Brooks Downing in the Bahamas when Downing’s company (bd Global) was putting on a Web.com event, and there was talk of the Champions (Senior) Tour possibly returning to Lexington.
“But then to hear Brooks say we might have a chance at a PGA TOUR tournament, I kind of stepped back and thought, how is that possible? But it makes sense. It’s the right size event for Lexington, and we love our sports there.”
Teater is familiar with Champions at Keene Trace. The last time he played the course in competition was the 2004 Kentucky Open. He shot 7-under par (71-67-71—209) and finished third, 3 behind winner J.B. Holmes.
He’s looking forward to returning to Champions in a couple months for the Barbasol Championship, and he’s sure he’ll feel comfortable on the big stage of the PGA TOUR.
“I feel that’s where I belong,” he said. “I had 4½ pretty good years out there, and I think there’s more to come for sure.”