Ex-Cats

They just wrapped up their UK golf careers; soon they'll make their PGA debuts

Cooper Musselman, left, and Chip McDaniel both earned sponsor exemptions to play in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship.
Cooper Musselman, left, and Chip McDaniel both earned sponsor exemptions to play in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship.

Central Kentucky golf fans will have a unique opportunity to watch some of the world's best players compete in their own backyard when the PGA Tour comes to Nicholasville next month.

The Barbasol Championship will be contested at Champions at Keene Trace Golf Club on July 19-22, marking the first regular-season PGA event in Kentucky since 1959.

It will also offer a unique opportunity to a pair of former University of Kentucky golfers.

Chip McDaniel and Cooper Musselman wrapped up their college careers as UK's top individual finishers in the NCAA Tournament in late May. They were awarded sponsor exemptions for the Barbasol Championship, allowing them to compete in the event despite having not yet earned PGA Tour cards.

The path to earning one of those is tough, but the Barbasol Championship will give them a chance to test their skills against golfers who have reached the upper echelon of their profession. Last year's Barbasol field featured seven players who have won PGA majors and organizers expect it to attract a ton of talent again this year.

At the tournament's media day event on June 4, UK Coach Brian Craig said he didn't expect either McDaniel or Musselman to shrink from the moment.

"These two guys can play with anybody," Craig said. "In the end its just one week of golf and these guys are really good. I think they just need to be themselves and go out there and be aggressive. No matter what happens in this tournament it's not going to define their careers, so I expect them to play like they're capable of playing. Anything could happen that week and they're both good enough to make some noise if they get hot."

The PGA TOUR Barbasol Championship will be played July 16-22 at Champions at Keene Trace Golf Course. This will Central Kentucky’s first PGA TOUR event in years.

McDaniel, who starred at Clay County in high school and is the reigning Kentucky Amateur champion, relishes the chance to begin his pro career at a PGA event in his home state.

"It's a really unique thing, and to play in a PGA tournament in Kentucky is really special," he said. "I'm going to approach it as just another golf tournament as best I can even though it's obviously going to be the biggest stage that I've played on. But every level I've played on I've never been scared of the moment, so I feel confident going in."

Both golfers are very familiar with the course, having played at Champions a ton of times over the course of their UK careers.

"I think that's gonna be a huge advantage," said Musselman, who played for St. Xavier in high school. "Not only playing this course but playing in my home state, that's gonna be big for me."

Something else that'll give him an advantage?

"Getting to sleep in my own bed," he said.

Like McDaniel, Musselman has already been working on outfitting his trophy case. Last year the Louisville native became the first Amateur to win the Kentucky Open since 2010. He said the chance to compete in the Barbasol Championship could go a long way toward helping him add more hardware to his collection down the road.

"I'm not gonna put too many expectations on myself, but I'm definitely shooting to make the cut," he said. "This is a chance to play alongside some guys that have been on the PGA Tour for a long time and see where I stand and where I need to improve over the next couple of years so I can be on that tour with them.

"This just makes me realize how blessed I am. I've worked hard my whole amateur career but to see it pay off by getting to do something like this is incredible," Musselman said. "It's an unbelievable opportunity. I'm looking forward to getting to see where I stack up against the best of the best."

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announces PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship will be coming to Nicholasville in 2018.

UK junior Tyler "Chip" McDaniel discusses his record-breaking win in the Kentucky Amateur Championship

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