Central grad Joshua Creel never abandoned PGA dream
Cheyenne, WY (September 8, 2021) — Joshua Creel spent nine years bouncing around professional golf’s minor leagues. There were stops on the McKenzie Tour (formerly PGA Tour Canada), PGA Latinoamérica and the All Pro Tour. He spent the past three years on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is golf’s version of Triple-A baseball. The past nine years have included struggles mixed in with stretches of great play that got him tantalizingly close to achieving his lifelong goal of reaching the PGA Tour. Creel never considered giving up on that dream, despite all the struggles and frustration.
“I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks if you have a backup plan, that’s what you’re planning to do,” the 31-year-old said while driving back to his home in Oklahoma on Monday. “Even through the bad stretches of golf, I kept my head down and kept grinding away, and that paid off.”
Creel – who graduated from Cheyenne Central in 2008 – earned his PGA Tour card by shooting 11-under-par 277 and tying for eighth at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship on Sunday at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Indiana. Creel finished the three-event Korn Ferry Finals tied for 13th, which earned him a spot on pro golf’s top circuit.
“This is pretty much what I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid hitting shots and putts at the Cheyenne Country Club,” Creel said. “It didn’t happen as fast as I would have liked. Nonetheless, I’m excited to lock up a PGA Tour card and go play.”
Creel opened the Korn Ferry Finals by splitting 54th in the Boise Open (7-under, 277). He followed by splitting 10th with a 13-under 271 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on Aug. 29 in Columbus, Ohio. Rebounding with a top-10 finish put Creel in position to earn his PGA Tour card.
“Some of the media guys ran the numbers and told me I could make it if I just finished in the top 25 (at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship), so I felt pretty good about my chances,” Creel said. “In the end, I could have finished in the top 35 and still made it.”
Creel left nothing to chance in Indiana, hitting his drives an average of 282 yards with an accuracy of 84%. He also hit 78% of the greens in regulation.
“That’s a hard golf course, where one bad swing can lead to a big number in a hurry,” Creel said. “To get around there with just six or seven bogeys for the week is pretty good. If you get out of position there, you can have a really bad time. I tried to keep it in the short grass, hit as many greens as possible, and keep it as stress-free as I could.”
Creel picked up his first Korn Ferry win Aug. 8 when he finished the Utah Championship at 24-under 260. That victory catapulted him from 64th to 32nd in the season standings. The top 25 Korn Ferry players at the end of the regular season earn full status on the PGA Tour. The Utah win gave Creel a shot at cracking the top 25 with a top-10 finish at the season-ending Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, Nebraska. He shot a 6-over 148 and missed the cut.
“I had nothing in my tank when I got to Omaha,” Creel said. “The win kind of sucked the energy out of me. I came out and hit shots I hadn’t hit in a while. Missing the cut there might have actually been a blessing in disguise, because it gave me a few days to recharge, relax and practice.”
The way Creel earned his PGA Tour card doesn’t guarantee him fully exempt status for the next PGA season the way winning the Korn Ferry regular season or Korn Ferry Finals titles would have. He knows he will be able to tee it up in the PGA’s September, October and November events, but wasn’t sure what he needs to do to stay on the top circuit, or improve his status there. Creel knows a sure-fire way to remove all the guesswork, though.
“How I play in the first 10 or 12 events will dictate what I can do the rest of the year,” he said. “I haven’t looked at the breakdown of what I need to do to stay up there, but I know good golf takes care of everything. We’ll go try and get it into the hole as fast as we can when we do get to play and go from there.”
Creel – who won the 2012 NCAA Division II championship while playing for the University of Central Oklahoma – has already played in one PGA tournament. He used a Monday qualifier to earn a spot in the 2018 Texas Open, and finished 64th in that tournament. Creel nearly achieved his PGA dream in 2019, but came up just short. That season included a runner-up finish after a three-hole playoff in Utah.
“I always felt like I was good enough to compete against the best guys in the world,” Creel said. “There are 200 guys with PGA Tour status, a couple hundred guys with Korn Ferry status and tens of thousands of guys trying to get there. There could be someone in Nebraska right now who has the game to play on the PGA Tour, but it’s really freaking hard to get there. I continued to have small successes along the way at each level I got to. I never felt like I was moving backward. I just kept working, and finally got it done.”