Alex Smalley’s wild ride from Wyndham invites TOUR map

His path to TOUR became clearer after receiving a sponsor exemption for the Corales event in September 2020 and finishing T14. He would play Monday qualifiers and continue to write letters to tournament directors seeking sponsor exemptions. If he continues to play well and accumulate points, he may be able to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour finals and compete for a TOUR card.

“And so we’ve been going that route quite aggressively for the rest of the fall and the good part of the next rest of the year,” Smalley said.

Jay Overton – to whom Smalley says he also owes a huge debt of gratitude – received another invitation when the Corales Puntacana Championship was replayed in March 2021. Again Smalley did not disappoint, placing 22nd for earn more points. At that time, Brazil noticed it.

He rarely gives invitations four months in advance and he has never invited a member of Sedgefield to the Wyndham, in part because his vital position as the last event of the regular season makes every court spot extremely valuable.

“But this kid can play,” he said.

Smalley made another cut after Monday’s qualifying for the John Deere Classic (T47). When he competed in the Wyndham Championship, Smalley thought he needed a top 40 to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

This week at Greensboro started inauspiciously, with Smalley putting three shots on two of his first three holes. He fought back to shoot 68, then fired a bogey-free 64 to easily make the cut. But he entered Sunday with no margin for error after shooting 2 of 72 in the third round.

This final round was up and down, but with four holes between him and the KFT Finals, Smalley delivered. He birdied the last four holes – all on putts 15 feet or less – to finish T29 and bring tears of joy to his family. Looking back, he reckons even two birdies in his last four holes would have left him one point short of his target.

“He wasn’t intimidated by it at all,” said Maria, Smalley’s mother. “Actually, I remind him a lot. I’m just like, okay, shut it up – like you did at the Wyndham.

Of course, the performance at Wyndham wouldn’t have meant much if he hadn’t taken advantage of it. But a fourth-place finish at the Children’s Hospital National Championship secured him a spot on the PGA TOUR this season.

“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Championship Wyndham, and Bobby Long and Mark Brazil, for giving me a chance to prove myself,” Smalley said. “I definitely wouldn’t have my TOUR card right now if it wasn’t for them.”

Brazil says Smalley’s successful quest last year is “quite a story. It’s courage and determination and it’s a grinder. He has a lot of courage for him.

Smalley, however, hides it under a soft and sweet attitude. He’s thoughtful and smart, graduating from Duke with a degree in environmental science (and a 3.6 GPA to go along with his 71.3 GPA). Although he was born in Rochester, New York, he moved to the Raleigh area when he was 2 years old and considers himself “100% North Carolinian.” Her family, which includes younger sister Katie who is studying to be a zookeeper, is very close-knit, the kind who got together at 8 p.m. every night to watch their favorite movies or TV shows together and still love going to DisneyWorld.

Herman C. Harkins