Golf

Teater keeps up drive for top 25

Josh Teater of Lexington might not enjoy as much fame or as big a following as Kentucky's top golfer, Kenny Perry.

But if Teater can hold his position on the Nationwide Tour's money list until season's end, the two will be colleagues next season.

Teater, in his rookie year on the Nationwide Tour, is 25th on the money list. The top 25 at the end of the year earn PGA Tour cards for the following year.

"I don't want to finish 25th, though," Teater said. "If you finish 25th, that doesn't get you a full pass to many events next year.

"Then again, if I finish 26th, I have to go back to Q-school."

The 30-year-old Teater, a Henry Clay and Morehead State graduate, could have made his full-time PGA debut in 2009 if it weren't for a collapse at qualifying school.

Q-school has earned a reputation as one of the sport's least forgiving events because of its tiresome schedule and the stakes. It starts in October and goes through four stages; the final stage is a six-round tournament in December, and the top 25 plus ties earn a PGA Tour card.

Teater stood on the 15th tee in the final round last Dec. 8 at 19 under par, in position to earn his spot on the 2009 Tour.

He triple-bogeyed No. 15, double-bogeyed 16, managed par on 17, but doubled again on 18.

He finished the tournament at 12 under, seven strokes off the cut, having shot 7 over on the last four holes.

"You gotta have those nerves of steel," said Lexington lawyer Tucker Richardson, a family friend of Teater who flew out to La Quinta, Calif., to watch his final round at Q-school. "When you make a bad shot, you have to be able to just shove it behind you and make the next one. That's what he's starting to learn, and that's what makes him different than an average golfer like me."

By virtue of making the final stage of Q-school, Teater automatically qualified for the Nationwide Tour, one step below the PGA Tour.

Teater has made 12 cuts in 20 Nationwide starts. Playing on the Nationwide has allowed Teater the opportunity to travel across the United States and to New Zealand and Panama.

For that reason and others, Teater said, he is thankful for his year on the Nationwide Tour.

"I've been able to travel around the world here in the last six months playing a game I love to play and compete with some of the best players in the world," Teater said. "A lot of these guys have been on the PGA Tour, and a lot are guys that will be.

"I hope I can be one of those guys, too."

Teater's swing coach, Matt Killen, agreed that at least one year on the Nationwide Tour is right for Teater.

"He's putting himself in positions he hasn't been in before. That's experience he needs," said Killen, who has worked with Teater since last year.

Killen, based in Franklin, coaches Perry, J.B. Holmes, Paul Azinger and other PGA Tour players, as well as Teater. Teater's skill level is on par with his other students, Killen said.

He said it's just a matter of playing well at the right time — something that finally happened early in Teater's Nationwide run.

In the third Nationwide event of the 2009 season on March 8, Teater tied for seventh at the New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Until the Christmas in October Classic last weekend in Kansas, Teater hadn't finished another tournament in the top 10.

He had dropped to 65th on the money list, which would not have allowed him to retain his Nationwide membership next year.

But in Kansas, Teater made a move.

After opening 67-70 to make the cut, Teater blazed the course for a bogey-free 63, launching himself into the final group on Sunday, tied for second.

Entering the final round three shots behind leader Michael Sim, Teater shot a 66 and came in second, two strokes back of Sim.

The round's low number was bittersweet, Teater said; he was tied for the lead going into No. 15, and he finished 2-over on the last four holes. If he had parred out, he would've gone to a playoff.

"I had a chance to win with a few holes left," Teater said. "I obviously didn't pull it off, but it gave me a chance to feel what it's like to be there on Sunday."

The second-place finish earned Teater $67,500. He is now 25th on the money list, having earned $127,500 in 2009.

"You can make a lot of cuts, but if you finish at the bottom after the cut is made, it's not going to help where you are," Teater said.

Another goal Teater set for this summer was to share a round with Perry and pick his brain, which he was able to do at Kenny Perry Country Creek Golf Club in Franklin in early July.

Teater didn't spend the whole time bugging Perry with questions about the Tour, but he said he learned quite a bit just by watching the PGA Tour veteran at work.

"He knew where his ball was going every time, and he knew the path it would take to get there," Teater said. "Just based on that, it's easy to see how he shoots so low all the time.

"It's definitely something to shoot for, to play like him."

Aside from his No. 4 world ranking, Perry has earned fan-favorite status across the Tour because of his gracious attitude when things don't go his way.

In an up-and-down game, Killen said, that's where Teater can learn more from Perry than anybody else.

"That's what's great about Kenny," Killen said. "You have to look at it like any other job because it is your job, even though a lot of people don't look at golf that way."

Teater will have to show some of that resilience to make this weekend's cut at the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic near Scranton. He shot a 6-over 76 in the first round Thursday, which put him in a tie for 146th.

Teater doesn't have Perry's résumé yet, or the fan following — Perry's Facebook fan page has some 237,000 members compared with Teater's 197 — but, according to Killen, Perry said he and Teater have a lot of reasons to relate to each other.

If nothing else, Killen says, Perry and Teater will be work buddies before too long.

"It's pretty clear to both me and Kenny," Killen said, "Josh will be on the Tour before we know it."

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