Former Stetson University golfer Sam Ryder started a new phase of his professional career on Thursday when he played in the first round of the PGA Tour Canada PC Financial Open at the Point Grey Golf & Country Club in Vancouver, British Columbia.
While this is not the first time Ryder has played in Canada, it is the first time as full-time, card-carrying, member of the tour.
Ryder, who closed his Stetson career in the spring of 2012 by earning the Atlantic Sun Conference title, shot an even par round of 72 on Thursday in his first PGA Canada event, and is six shots off the lead.
Since completing his collegiate career, Ryder has been played in events across a number of tours. Much of his time was spent playing on the NGA (formerly Hooters) Tour. He played in 19 events on that tour last year and has already played in nine this year, including a victory at Forest Lake Golf Club in January. Overall, he had recorded seven top 10 finishes on the NGA Tour.
Right after playing in the Savannah Lakes Village Classic in South Carolina in early May, Ryder flew across the country to compete for a spot on the Canadian Tour.
“The Q school for the Canadian Tour had three sites, one at Oak Valley Golf Club in Palm Springs, California, which is the one I went to,” Ryder said. The top 18 guys at each site got their Canadian Tour cards.”
Ryder left little room for doubt, tying for second with a four-round score 13-under par 275. His score tied for the third lowest at any of the three Q school events.
“I went out there last month and played well,” Ryder said. “I finished second so I have my full status to play up there all year.”
The Canadian Tour is made up of 12 events, starting this weekend in Vancouver and concluding with the Tour Championship of Canada in mid September. Each of the 12 events carries a total purse of $150,000, and the top five on the money list at the end of the year will earn a promotion to the Web.com Tour for 2015.
“This tour is similar to the Hooters Tour that I have played on,” Ryder said. “The thing is that the PGA Tour bought the Canadian Tour, so it will be well run because they all are now run by the PGA. They take all of the events very seriously.”
Ryder said the competition on the tour will be stiff because all of the players have their eyes on moving up.
“There will be a lot of very good players on the tour, a lot of guys like me who are looking to make the jump to the next level,” Ryder said. “It will be competitive because the top players get Web.com Tour cards for next year, and that is a big incentive for a lot of us to go up there and play. This tour is like Double A in baseball, and the Web.com Tour is like Triple A. We are all looking to make the jump to the next level.”
The 12 events of the Canadian Tour do not run for 12 straight weeks, so there will be a chance for Ryder to return home to Florida, or play in other events, during breaks. The first break, the weekend of June 12-15, coincides with the U.S. Open. There is also a break for the week of the RBC Canadian Open July 24-27.
“It is going to be different,” Ryder said. “There are some breaks in the schedule, but they also group the events where they are close together. The first two events are in British Columbia and then there is a week off before we go to Alberta. I will definitely come home for some of the breaks, but I’ll figure it out as we go based on what some of the guys I will be traveling with are doing. We are kind of all in it together.”
Ryder said he still gets plenty of support from his parents, who traveled to almost every tournament he played in while at Stetson.
“They are excited,” Ryder said. “They have been supporting me throughout and they love to follow what I am doing.”