Jim Meehan: Spokane’s Alex Prugh celebrates PGA Tour card in style

Alex Prugh watches his putt on the ninth green during the opening round of the Byron Nelson golf tournament, May 19, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (Tony Gutierrez / AP)
Alex Prugh chips onto the eighth green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., on March 22, 2015. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP)

The Web.com Tour does a cool ceremony every year after its final regular-season event, announcing the 25 players that secured PGA Tour cards for the following season.

Spokane’s Alex Prugh made it a little cooler when he was joined by 3-year-old son Eric for the walk up to greet tour president Dan Glod and Web.com CEO David Brown.

“A lot of fun,” the former Ferris Saxon and Washington Husky said. “The last time I got my tour card (Eric) wasn’t born yet. The last time when I went to the ceremony it was just myself. It’s definitely a different feeling with him by my side and my wife (Katie) there, too.”

It’s an emotional scene for players and their families as their year-long efforts are rewarded with a promotion to the PGA Tour. Several battled to move in or hold on to the precious last few spots in the top 25 at last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open. One player literally came within inches, the distance between his ball and the cup on the 18th green, of cracking the top 25.

Prugh’s nerves didn’t have last weekend off, but he knew he’d already done enough to cement his return to the PGA Tour. He’s been on a roll with a runner-up finish in June and five straight top 25s to close the regular season. He took 24th in Portland to finish 18th on the money list with $184,671.

The Web.com Tour season concludes with the four-event Finals, where players in the top 25 can boost their priority ranking significantly for next season with a strong performance.

Prugh missed the cut at the first event, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

Prugh relocated from Las Vegas back to Spokane about two years ago. Plane trips to tournaments usually require a few more hours, but he’s surrounded by friends and family, including two sets of grandparents.

“Spokane is always home,” Prugh said. “It’s just a lot better for a golf, family, life balance. The travel isn’t too bad, I just fly through Denver a lot.”

The homecoming certainly hasn’t hurt his game. His stats are solid across the board: Average driving distance (315.5, 25th), greens in regulation (73.3 percent, 10th), Birdie average (4.37, 13th), scoring average (69.48, 12th) and ball striking (16th).

He’s shot in the 60s in 11 consecutive final rounds.

“I think he’s playing better golf than he has in his life,” said Prugh’s dad Steve, the longtime pro at Manito who is now semi-retired. “He’s hitting it the way he always has, which is wonderfully, but the fundamentals of his putting have really improved.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how tough he’s been mentally.”

And there was that one signature round of 10-under 60 a couple of weeks ago at the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae. The back nine: 3-3-2, 3-3-4, 2-4-3. That’s seven straight birdies, eight overall and 27 strokes.

“Honestly, I basically hit eight really good shots and had between 4 and 7 feet on every single one of my birdies,” Prugh said. “Those are putts you expect to make and I made them all.

“It happened before I knew it. My playing partners told me I shot 27 on the back and I literally had to look it up.”

That last sentence provides a peek into Prugh’s mindset. The 33-year-old is now a four-time Web.com Tour graduate, the first coming in 2009, which he jokes “seems like a lifetime ago.”

He’s surrounded mostly by 20-somethings – nine of the top 10 on the money list – but he embraces the daily grind and his game continues to evolve.

“One round or one shot can build confidence, and golf is a game of confidence,” said Prugh, who has 113 career PGA Tour starts, 56 from 2014-16 and 57 in 2010-11. “To me, it’s always fun. I’m fortunate to play for a living and I love the competition.”