Why a 28-year-old with 0 Tour wins may be someone you should root for

Jimmy Stanger

Jimmy Stanger earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Open.

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Jimmy Stanger, a 28-year-old PGA Tour rookie with zero PGA Tour wins, isn’t officially Jimmy Stanger. 

He’s Raymond James Stanger, a 28-year-old PGA Tour rookie with zero PGA Tour wins. 

And Raymond James Stanger was named Raymond James Stanger as a tribute to his grandfather. Only Raymond James is also a big name in Tampa, Florida, where Raymond James Stanger is from. For one, Raymond James is the name attached to Raymond James Financial, as those hip to financial services know well. But Raymond James Financial has also affixed Raymond James to the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s called Raymond James Field, and it opened in 1998. 

And Raymond James Stanger was born in 1995. 

And Raymond James Stanger, for, oh, about 10 or so years, believed in something perhaps a little odd, but also a little wonderful, and, hey, you never know. 

“So my dad had me convinced until I was about 10,” Jimmy Stanger said, “that he was able to pull some strings and get the stadium named after me.”


Any trauma was brief, though. Stanger loves his Bucs. He thinks he can still rattle off the names of the 2002-03 bunch that won the Super Bowl. (Derrick Brooks was his dude.) He got a story out of it, too, which is a thing about Stanger: He’s got stories, including ones like the charming anecdote about his name. And then there are ones that strike as hard as his driver. They’re revealing ones. Telling ones. He was dishing on some Tuesday, two days ahead of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, about 20 miles from Tampa. A Stanger homecoming. 

Then again, what could a 28-year-old PGA Tour rookie with zero PGA Tour wins really have to say that would make you care? 

That would maybe make you want to root for him?

OK, here’s one. It’s about the grind. 

Stanger had been a star. Tuesday, he remembered winning a Tampa tournament of champions at 8. Beat a junior legend, he said. He played four years at Virginia, where his online bio is scroll-inducing. Victories. All-American status. His time in Charlottesville overlapped with Tour player Denny McCarthy

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But golf careers, like golf balls hit off golf clubs, often do not take a linear line. Stanger stalled. About a year after graduation, he reached the Korn Ferry Tour, the rung below the PGA Tour. But he remained on the Korn Ferry Tour. In 2018, he was 78th in the season-long standings. In 2019, 41st. In the 2020-21 season, 50th. In 2022, 40th. There were heartbreakers, too. In 2017, at Q-School, he lipped-out a putt that would have given him a card. In 2018, he missed a 6-footer at the end of the season to lose status. Last June, needing a par to reach a playoff at an event, he took a quintuple bogey

Only, the next week, he won. Birdied the final hole to do it, too. Things sometimes just happen like that. A few months later, he was off to the big leagues. This year’s been respectable, too. Seven events. Five cuts made. A tie for third at the start of the month in Puerto Rico. An appearance last week at the Players Championship, where he was in after Tiger Woods opted to sit out, then tied for 35th. (“I was probably one of the happiest guys in the country that Tiger decided not to play,” he said.) This week, at the Valspar, it’ll be his first start at home as an official Tour member, and there’ll be dozens of Stanger folks all over the joint. (“Man, it’s cool,” he said.) 

All of it has made him think. A reporter asked him if he felt “on schedule.”

He started his answer by saying how many pros “would kill” for a Korn Ferry spot, respecting how far he had gone. He talked about patience. He talked about control.   

“Obviously, I wanted to be up here faster than I did coming out of college as a top-ranked player,” Stanger said, “but I had some holes in my game that I needed to fix, and probably some mentality things that I needed to work through. 

“I realize, again, that I could be playing professional golf for, I hope to play for the next 20 years of my life, but I could be on the PGA Tour for the next year, I could be on the PGA Tour for the next 20 years. I’m not really in control of the results, I’m in control of doing the best thing I can do day-in and day-out in order to get the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes possible. 

“So that’s where I put most of my focus, where, today, what can I be doing to help myself play the best golf Thursday through Sunday. I think if you can stack that mentality week-in, week-out out here you can — I’ve learned that I can compete out here, and that’s amazing. To be able to compete against the best in the world was my dream growing up and now I get a chance to do that.”

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OK, here’s another story. It’s about giving back. 

Stanger, a 28-year-old PGA Tour rookie with zero PGA Tour wins, has started a charity that he’s called Birdies for Hope, which, as the name suggests, is birdie based. He donates $20 for every one. Since starting it in 2019, he’s raised about $150,000. 

The money goes to helping build churches and hope centers in third-world countries.  

But why those specifically?

“These churches obviously are a place of worship on Sunday,” Stanger said, “but also Monday through Saturday, they’re helping the community out in whatever way is necessary. A lot these villages don’t have the traditional charities that we have here, so these buildings double as orphanages, they double as hospitals, they double as schools for children, and they really fill these necessary needs that give hope to those communities, that keep kids out of drug trade, that teach immigrants how to function in a civilized society. 

“It’s been really special to do that. We’ve built nine churches so far and hoping to continue to build on that number here in the future.”

OK, but why at all?

“Yeah, so again, a lot of that comes back to my faith and the idea that what Jesus said, it is truly better to give than to receive. The golf life is amazing, there are so many perks to being a professional golfer on the PGA Tour, but in the end, like, it’s far better to give back to the community than to receive all these gifts. 

“I fully believe that I am profiting by giving back, I’m profiting by impacting the lives of others in a better way, and I really hope that I can look back on my golf career and say that my golfing career was used for more than the glory of Jimmy Stanger, but that it was used to further the glory of God and to help other people in whatever ways that can happen.”

OK, one more. It’s about how you’ll never know the impact you’ll leave. 

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Stanger previously spent some time at Innisbrook, the host course this week. As a kid, he worked the range. He also served as a standard bearer at previous Valspars. One year, he toted around the scores for Jerry Kelly. Stanger remembers the round well. 

Kelly asked him if he played golf. Where he played. If he had Tour hopes. 

It stuck. You’ll hear the questions again Thursday. 

“Like I remember thinking to myself,” Stanger said, “if I ever get a chance to be out here, I want to be like that to the standard bearer, I want to be like that to the guys who work the range and do all those things. 

“Again, I keep saying it’s special, but it is special to be able to have that opportunity to do that to whoever my standard bearer is this week and to be able to talk to them and ask them those questions, so maybe make an impact in their lives.”

Thursday, Stanger tees off at 9:36 a.m. 

Should you have a rooting interest. 

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