‘Best thing for me’: How losing his PGA Tour card fueled J.J. Spaun

J.J. Spaun walks at the Masters at Augusta National on April 10, 2022.

J.J. Spaun tied for 23rd in his first Masters appearance.

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Last month, J.J. Spaun drove down Magnolia Lane and played in his first-ever Masters, which only happened because he picked up his first PGA Tour victory a few days earlier to earn the final invite.

But all of that almost didn’t happen. In pro golf and on the PGA Tour, nothing is guaranteed.

Spaun had a good start to his young PGA Tour career, but near the end of 2018 he started to feel run down and was losing weight. He was misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and did what he thought he needed to battle it, but he didn’t feel much better and his game wasn’t improving.

“My trajectory was positive,” said Spaun, this week’s guest on GOLF’s Subpar Podcast. “It was going up, and then all of a sudden this gets thrown at me. It was kinda weird; I didn’t want it to mess with me mentally, but it was a big change.”

He dropped to 584th in the World Ranking after a missed cut at the 2021 Valspar, and it was in the middle of that 2021 season when Spaun found out he was misdiagnosed. He had Type 1 diabetes, not Type 2. That new information, and the new way to attack it, was not the reason for his slide, he says, but it was a contributing factor.

He finished 174th in the FedEx Cup standings and officially lost his PGA Tour card — he would have lost it the previous year, but the Tour didn’t take away any cards due to the pandemic-shortened season — and had to fight to get it back. But Spaun says that was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Spaun went to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and finished second at the Albertsons Boise Open — the first of three events — to regain his PGA Tour card for 2021-22. Eight months later, already in the midst of his best season in years, Spaun won the Valero Texas Open, securing PGA Tour membership through 2023-24.

“I think maybe that was the best thing for me,” Spaun said of losing his card. “It’s not like it was a mental thing that I was taking for granted of being on Tour, but it was like, wow, you had something you wanted so badly and now it’s gone. Not even conditional status. I don’t know, I think going to Boise and finishing second, I think that gave me a little of my confidence back and knowing you are obviously going to go through some bad times and play bad golf, but there’s still some spark there and still some light at the end of the tunnel.

“I was able to play good and get my card back and I’ve just been playing good ever since then,” he continued. “I think it’s also due to a lot of the work that I put in between then with my swing and attitude and just overcoming everything.”

You can listen to Spaun’s entire Subpar interview below.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.