It’s arduous to imagine that lower than half a yr in the past, I used to be nonetheless in faculty, ending my newbie golf profession on the NCAA Championship and having fun with my previous few weeks at USC. And but, just some months later, I’ve skilled a lot in my first season as an expert golfer, and I’m a step nearer to reaching my dream of taking part in on the PGA Tour.

I’ve all the time dreamed of taking part in professional golf, however the choice to make it a actuality got here to me rapidly throughout my senior season at USC. I thought of staying newbie for the summer time, however determined to pursue my dream instantly, turning professional and heading north to play on the Mackenzie Tour.

The Mackenzie Tour, which was referred to as the Canadian Tour, is the place a number of gamers like me are beginning their careers now. The highest 5 gamers on the cash checklist on the finish of the yr get their Tour playing cards, and the tournaments are arrange similar to a miniature PGA Tour occasion, with galleries, leaderboards, media, pro-ams and all the things else. Loads of gamers who I regarded as much as in faculty – All-People like Robby Shelton, Lee McCoy, Jordan Niebrugge and so many extra – had been going to play there this yr, and I knew the extent of competitors was going to be actually excessive.

At first, competing as an expert got here naturally to me. I began my professional profession with a tie for eighth on the Bayview Place Cardtronics Open in Victoria and had top-10 finishes in 4 of my first 5 begins, together with a tie for second on the Mackenzie Investments Open in Montreal. However because the season went on, I rapidly realized that professional golf is about greater than birdies and bogeys, and that touring throughout the nation is a much bigger problem than you may assume.

Rico Hoey and caddie – and USC coach – Chris Zambri throughout the first spherical of stroke play of the 2016 U.S. Beginner at Oakland Hills Nation Membership (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

In faculty golf, you’ve acquired your teammates round you to select you up when you have a foul spherical. However within the professionals, you’ve acquired to discover a solution to shoot a very good rating even when you don’t have your A-game, as a result of it’s all as much as you. Plus, you’ve acquired to discover a solution to handle your time and put together your self for a brand new match in a brand new metropolis each week. You study rapidly that taking part in for a paycheck means a complete new degree of obligations.

Thankfully for me, I had some nice pals on the tour round me and a few veterans to look as much as who helped present me how you can do issues the correct approach. I knew that even throughout the weeks the place I didn’t play in addition to I might have favored, I used to be studying a lot on and off the course and getting higher each time I performed.

Coming right down to the tip of the yr on the Freedom 55 Monetary Championship, I wanted a win to crack the highest 5 and earn my Tour card. I had performed nicely by means of the yr, however so as to make the soar to the subsequent degree, I wanted to exit and do what I hadn’t been capable of do but – win.

For some cause, though all of it got here right down to that one final week, I wasn’t feeling the stress. In reality, I used to be feeling as relaxed as ever and knew that if I may do my job, all the things else would handle itself. I used to be staying with my good pal Cody Blick, and after we acquired paired collectively for Friday’s second spherical, he shot 61 to take the lead. It was superior to see and impressed me to exit on the weekend and provides it all the things I had.

On Saturday, it was my flip to go low, and I shot 62 to take the lead by three headed into the ultimate spherical. With a lot on the road on the final occasion of the yr, I knew it might be powerful to shut it out, however I thought of all the things I had realized and the way it was all getting ready me for this second. As I ready for the ultimate spherical, I thought of everybody who had supported me by means of my journey and helped me get to this place, particularly my household. I knew I had lots going for me and simply wished to exit and provides it my greatest and see what I may do.

Holding onto that lead was one of many hardest factor I’ve needed to do on this recreation, and each time I checked out a leaderboard, somebody was making a transfer to chase me down. However after I birdied the 17th gap, I had a two-shot lead and knew I may safely play for the win on 18. A couple of minutes later, I tapped in for the win and had achieved my aim – I had received the match and moved into the highest 5 to earn my Tour card.

Rico Hoey received the Freedom 55 Monetary Championship to safe his Tour card by way of the Mackenzie Tour. (Claus Andersen/PGA Tour)

As quickly because it was over, a wave of emotion washed over me. All I may take into consideration was my household, coaches and everybody who helped me get right here. I had achieved my aim and gotten one step nearer to my dream, and it was all potential due to them. I’m so grateful for his or her help, and I can’t wait to point out them how a lot it means by having a fair larger yr subsequent season.

This yr isn’t over for me but, both. I’m going to play the Remaining Stage of Tour Q-College to attempt to enhance my standing and hopefully be absolutely exempt subsequent yr, and on the finish of the yr, I’ll be taking part in within the Aruba Cup, a Ryder Cup-style match-play occasion in Aruba that pits golfers from the Mackenzie Tour towards their counterparts from the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. It’s going to be an superior week of competitors in a tremendous place and an ideal likelihood to have a good time and replicate on what a tremendous yr this has been.

With all the things that occurred this yr, I can’t wait to replicate on all of it, benefit from the second, and get proper again to work on making subsequent yr even higher.