Alex Prugh insists he has not been surprised by the success he has experienced this spring as a rookie on the PGA Tour.
But the former, and soon to be again, Spokane resident does admit to feeling a bit giddy at times – especially during those post-round practice sessions when he’s banging range balls next to some past Masters or U.S. Open champion and finds himself looking over and thinking, “Man, I beat you out there today.”
“That’s pretty cool,” said the 25-year- old Prugh, a former standout at Ferris High School and the University of Washington, who has already pocketed more than $713,000 in official earnings to rank 45th on the tour’s list of top money winners.
Prugh, who earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 16th on the Nationwide Tour’s money list last year, made the cut in each of the first six Tour events he entered, with his biggest payday coming at the Bob Hope Classic, where he finished alone in fifth place and earned $200,000. He also banked another $186,162 for finishing in a tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open the following week.
He stands to add to his winnings this weekend after making the cut in his first Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
“I felt all along that my game was good enough to compete at this level,” said Prugh, whose father, Steve, is the head professional at Manito Golf & Country Club. “I mean, did I expect to finish fifth in only my second tournament? Not necessarily. But at the same time, if you’re teeing it up to finish lower than that, you’re probably teeing it up for the wrong reason.
“As a professional, you want to compete against the best. I’m getting a chance, now, to do that, and fortunately, I was able to boost my confidence with such a good start.”
Heading into The Players Championship, Prugh ranked 12th among tour players with an average driving distance of 293.3 yards and 16th in putting with an average of 1.74 per hole. But the more he plays against the best golfers on the planet, the more he appreciates the challenge of trying to win a tournament.
“Each week you get a better understanding of just how many really good players there are out here,” he said. “Realistically, you need to put together four good, solid rounds to win, and I haven’t done that, yet.
“The biggest thing is to manage your game when things aren’t working the best for you and still figure out a way to get it under par and post a score. That’s what I’m learning each day I tee it up – how to manage that B or C Game, when my A Game isn’t there.”
According to Prugh, who has former UW teammate Zach Bixler on his bag, the courses he has played on the PGA Tour are more difficult and better maintained than those on the Nationwide Tour. But none has been as tough to tame as the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., where he missed the cut in last week’s Quail Hollow Championship.
“The greens there were extremely fast and difficult,” Prugh said. “It was literally like putting on a basketball court with huge slopes, like those at Indian Canyon, thrown in. I guarantee that anyone in Spokane, with the exception of maybe my brother (Cory), wouldn’t be able to even sniff managing them.”
Remarkably, Prugh’s success on tour has come while he and his fiancé, Katie Penberthy, have been busy planning their September wedding and purchasing a home in Spokane, where Prugh was born.
Prugh plans to maintain a winter residence in Las Vegas, where he has been living since launching his professional golf career, but looks forward to spending the warm-weather months back in his hometown.
“I’ve been pretty conservative with the money I’ve made,” he said, “but I did splurge on a home in Spokane. Sure, I like to save money, but at the same time – with the (housing) market like it is – I’m not sure we’ll ever see prices like this again in our lifetime.
“So Katie and I talked about it and decided it was doable, and we’re both looking forward to getting back to the Pacific Northwest. The summertime up in Washington is pretty hard to beat, and it’ll be nice being near family again.”
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