Former UVA golfer Stanger breaks through with first Korn Ferry win; McCarthy 7th at Travelers

By Jerry Ratcliffe


Former Virginia golf star Jimmy Stanger wasn’t sure why two of his closest friends from the Korn Ferry Tour, Jared Wolfe and Dawson Armstrong, showered him with water bottles after he finished the final round of the Compliance Solutions Championship in Norman, Okla., on Sunday.

Yes, the burning Oklahoma sun caused the heat index to soar past the 100-degree mark. Maybe they were cooling him down for a playoff, the Cavalier wondered.

Instead, they were celebrating Stanger’s first Korn Ferry tournament win after the former Wahoo birdied the 72nd hole to finish 22-under par for the week. Stanger was stunned and somewhat unconvinced that he had won because of all the bad luck he had experienced during his professional career, bad breaks that had kept from the winner’s circle.

So, instead of putting extra pressure on himself by scoreboard watching all afternoon, Stanger had no idea where he stood when he finished.

“It’s something I’ve been doing for the last eight, nine events,” Stanger said afterward. “My brain is active enough as it is out there, so trying to worry about what other people are doing doesn’t help me at all.”

Fellow former UVA golfers didn’t fare so well in the event. Ben Kohles, who leads the Korn Ferry Tour points race, finished in a tie for 35th place at 11-under, while Thomas Walsh ended the event tied for 62nd at minus-6.

In the PGA TOUR’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut, former UVA All-American Denny McCarthy carded another top-10 finish with a 3-under final round, allowing him to finish seventh in the event at 18-under par.

Back in Oklahoma, Stanger was overjoyed with his first victory.

“There were nerves because I wanted to finish with a birdie on the last hole,” Stanger said. “I figured 22 (under par) had a better chance to win than 21, and it’s the last hole of a big tournament, so there were nerves. I’m glad I didn’t know where I was at. I would have been shaking a lot more.”

Stanger, who finished Coach Bowen Sargent’s UVA golf program in 2017, never imagined then that it would take him this long to capture his first professional win. He had won the Southern Am in 2016, a tournament that several PGA Tour winners had won. He has been on the Korn Ferry Tour since 2018, and while he has finished in the top 80 on the circuit ever since, he just couldn’t get over the hump. He would suffer a bad hole or some other golfer would turn in a spectacular final round to crush his dream.

Like last week in Wichita, he could have forced a playoff if he had parred the last hole, but instead, he hit his drive an inch out of bounds and finished the hole with a quadruple-bogey nine.

This time around, Stanger did everything right and won the first-place check, plus more.

With Sunday’s win, Stanger moved from 29th place in the Korn Ferry standings to fifth, as he hopes to land one of 30 available PGA Tour cards at the end of the season (11 more events remain this year).

“I’ve always wanted to be up there (on the PGA Tour),” Stanger said. “This isn’t the end goal, but it’s a pretty amazing stepping stone. It’s not going to make me a different person. I don’t want it to make me a different person. But, man, it feels good.”