By RON BALICKI
Dustin Johnson will join U.S. Walker Cup teammate Colt Knost in his professional debut at the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open next week.
Johnson, like Knost, has signed with Hambric Sports Management.
“I’ve just been waiting for somewhere to play,” said Johnson, who also signed an equipment deal with TaylorMade. “I’m excited to get my professional career going and grateful for the Texas Open to give me a chance to make my debut.”
Johnson, an All-American last season as a senior at Coastal Carolina, said he is still working on other sponsor exemptions for the rest of the year. He is entered in the PGA Tour Q-School and will play in the first stage “hopefully” in Florence, S.C., Oct. 23-26. “But I don’t know for sure on that yet,” he said.
“All of us here are anxious to see how Dustin’s game stacks up at the next level,” said David Winkle of Hambric Sports. “Everyone thinks of Dustin as a long hitter, which he is, but he is much, much more than that. He’s powerful and he’s fearless. I think he has a complete game and star quality potential. I can’t wait to see him get started.”
In addition to Johnson and Knost, Hambric Sports also signed Gary Woodland, a recent Kansas graduate. Woodland, who is still in the process of finalizing an equipment deal, has played in two Nationwide Tour events already, making the cut at the Albertsons Boise Open, which advanced him past pre-qualifying and into the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School.
Rhys Davies of Wales, a three-time All-American at East Tennessee State and a two-time Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team member, has been busy after signing with IMG following this year’s Walker Cup the first week in September.
Davies, who has inked deals to Ping (equipment) and Titleist (ball, shoe, glove), finished fourth and advanced through the first stage of European PGA Tour Q-School. He has a sponsor exemption into the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on Oct. 4-7. He’ll return to the U.S. for the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School Oct. 23-26 in Florence, S.C., and then travel back across the Atlantic Ocean for the second stage of European Tour qualifying. Davies has also landed the services of Ian Woosnam’s caddie Lee Adelly.
Announced earlier and entering the pro ranks following the Walker Cup was Chris Kirk, an All-American as a senior at Georgia last season and winner of the Ben Hogan Award as the nation’s top college/amateur golfer. Kirk, who signed an equipment deal with Titleist/FootJoy, made his pro debut at this week’s PGA Tour’s Viking Classic and has another sponsor exemption into the Frys.com Open in Las Vegas, Oct. 11-14. He is represented by Crown Sports.
Kirk’s Georgia teammate Brendon Todd, also an All-American last season, turned pro this summer and while he has not yet signed with an agent, he has inked an equipment deal with Nike. He’s been playing the Tar Heel Tour and the NGA/Hooters Tour and has won on both. He went through the PGA Tour’s pre-qualifying stage and shot 12 under to win by 12 shots. Todd plans to Monday qualify for the Nationwide Tour event in Chattanooga, Tenn., Oct. 18-21 and then play in the first stage of Q-School Oct. 23-26 in Durham, N.C.
Among others who finished their college careers this spring, Dawie van der Walt (Lamar), Luke List (Vanderbilt) and Jonathan Moore (Oklahoma State), have signed on with SFX. Moore bypassed his final two collegiate seasons.
Van der Walt, who signed an equipment deal with TaylorMade, has played in three European Tour events thus far. He plans to try Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour’s WNB Golf Classic in Midland, Texas, Oct. 11-14, and then compete, hopefully in Houston, in the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying.
List, who has a deal with Titleist/FootJoy, turned pro earlier this summer and has played in three PGA Tour events on sponsor exemptions – John Deere Classic, Travelers Championship and Wyndham Championship. He did not make the cut in any of the three. The 2004 U.S. Amateur runner-up has a sponsor exemption into the Nationwide Tour stop in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the following week also will be play the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School.
Moore, who made the clinching putt in America’s one-point victory over Great Britain & Ireland at the Walker Cup earlier this month, made his pro debut the following week on a sponsor exemption, missing the cut at the Nationwide Tour’s Oregon Classic. Moore, who has joined the Titleist/FootJoy group, has a sponsor exemption into the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He’ll then begin the PGA Tour qualifying process.
SFX also has signed Taylor Leon, who played two years at Georgia before turning pro this summer. She played in eight Future Tour events, posting four top 10s, including a pair of victories while finishing ninth on the money list. She will compete in the LPGA Qualifying Tournament in October.
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Ron Balicki is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him email [email protected]