Florida’s Fred Biondi makes tough decision to turn pro, bypass major exemptions
Fred Biondi was asked Sunday morning to recount the past few days since he led the Florida Gators to the NCAA Championship last Wednesday at Grayhawk.
“It’s been nuts, I’m not gonna lie,” said Biondi, who also captured the NCAA individual title last week.
Shutting down a fancy restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his team and Gator supporters. A long travel day that ended in a welcome party at the Gainesville, Florida, airport. Hours of media availability at the team’s home club, Mark Bostick Golf Course. A few drinks at a campus sports bar.
And that was just the first 24 hours.
“The whole day, people kept asking me what my [future] plans were,” Biondi said, “and I couldn’t answer them because I didn’t even know.”
By Friday afternoon, though, Biondi found his answer. After much discussion with his agent, family and coaches, Biondi decided to turn professional and make his pro debut at this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Courtesy of his second-place finish in PGA Tour University, Biondi has full status for the remainder of the KFT season, which has 14 events remaining, including three limited-field, elevated-points events that culminate with the KFT Championship in early October. Of course, Biondi also had the option, thanks to his individual win at Grayhawk, to remain amateur, bypassing his PGA Tour U opportunities, and compete in this month’s U.S. Open and next April’s Masters Tournament.
The decision was difficult – Biondi has a ton of respect for both the USGA and Augusta National Golf Club, and he’s already notified both – but as Biondi explained to GolfChannel.com prior to making his official announcement on Monday morning, he chose what he thought was the best way to get on the PGA Tour the quickest.
“I have this massive opportunity with PGA Tour U, playing a full schedule on the Korn Ferry Tour, so I’m going to take full advantage of that, hopefully play well and then put myself in a position where I’m able to get my Tour card next year,” Biondi said.
Coming off a grueling NCAA postseason run and with his first KFT start just days away, Biondi also chose to withdraw from U.S. Open final qualifying on Monday.
“It was just going to be a lot right after nationals,” said Biondi, who last summer final-qualified into the U.S. Open at The Country Club.
Biondi’s only path into either of those two majors now is via special exemption – or also for the Masters, to win a PGA Tour event between now and next year’s tournament. The USGA offered such an exemption to Rose Zhang, the NCAA women’s individual champion, for this summer’s U.S. Women’s Open, while the Masters has offered special invites to professionals in the past.
“We do know the chairman at Augusta National really well; [Fred Ridley] played for the Florida Gators, so maybe it would be something where they’d obviously understand where someone is graduating, got his degree already, fulfilled a wonderful commitment to Florida, and they’d honor that as a pro,” Florida head coach J.C. Deacon said. “But that’s way above my pay grade, so we’ll see.”
With neither exemption appearing imminent, Biondi will remain focused on what he can control, which is a summer on the KFT.