‘It’s crazy’: KFT rookie on what it was like winning in his professional debut

The path to success in pro golf is often long and winding. Sure, there are exceptions (think Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth), but for most, it takes a while to find success at the professional level.

This is partly due to the structure of pro golf. For years, there were limited options for advancements through the pro ranks. You either went through Q school and worked your way up through the development circuits, or you took advantage of your early sponsor exemptions and earned a card in limited starts.

Now, there is a different path to the PGA Tour, and it comes courtesy of PGA Tour U. Through this new program, golfers who play well enough in college can begin their professional careers with some status after they graduate, making things a little easier at the beginning of their careers.

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One such player who’s taken advantage of this program is Ricky Castillo (pronounced cuh-STILL-ee-oo). The 22-year-old graduated from the University of Florida this spring, and thanks to his play for the Gators, he jumped to the Korn Ferry Tour straight out of college.

In his first start on the KFT, Castillo won the Wichita Open, becoming the latest young talent to find early success in the professional ranks.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about winning or anything like that,” Castillo said on this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar. “I was just excited to play in the event. My first goal was just to make the cut.”

Castillo accomplished that goal — thanks to a 62 in Round 2 — and then took it a step further. He fired two rounds of 66 on the weekend to get into a three-way playoff for his first pro title.

“All of the sudden I was on the 18th hole and I looked at the leaderboard and saw that I was tied [for the lead],” he said. “Ended up going to a playoff and winning against Kyle Jones and Adrian [Dumont De Chassart].”

Castillo made par on the extra hole, while his two opponents made bogeys, clinching the title and earning him a two-year exemption on the KFT. He also earned 500 points and currently ranks 26th on the KFT points list.

“It’s crazy how things just move so fast,” he said. “It’s been great.”

You can listen to the entire episode of GOLF’s Subpar below.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.