Rick Cleveland

This Mississippian is only 20 and he’s about to fulfill his PGA Tour dream

Wilson Furr, who has never played in a PGA Tour tournament before, was driving from Tuscaloosa to Jackson Monday morning when he answered his cell phone.

My first question: How long have you been looking forward to Thursday’s first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship at Country Club of Jackson?

“Shoot, I don’t know,” he answered. “As long as I can remember. I can’t give you a number, but it’s a long, long time. I’ve always dreamed of playing the tour.”

He is only 20.

Furr, who grew up in Jackson, enjoyed a world class junior career playing out of CCJ. He knows the course like he knows his closet.

In 2015, at age 16, he became the youngest champion ever of the Mississippi State Amateur played that year at CCJ. What’s more, he lapped the field, winning by eight shots with a 72-hole score at 16 under par.

Just so you’ll know, Chesson Hadley shot the same 72-hole score when he won the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship and claimed the $774,000 top prize. A score of 18-under par won the tournament the previous three years.

No doubt, PGA officials will set up CCJ to play much more difficult than it did in the summer of 2015 when Furr won the State Am. The course won’t be much longer, but the Bermuda rough is higher and thicker and the pin placements will likely be more hidden than they were for the amateur event.

And then there’s the pressure of making your first PGA start — on your home course — before what surely will be one of the larger galleries this week.

Furr knows all that. Asked about the pressure, “I guess the way I look at it, I’ve never felt more pressure or been more nervous than I was in the NCAA Tournament last spring,” Furr said. “And I played some of the best golf I’ve ever played. As far as the people, I enjoy playing in front of crowds.

“Hey, I know I’ll be nervous on the first tee, but I’ll step up and hit it and then I’ll chase it and we’ll see what happens. I am really pumped about this week.”

Furr has played well this fall for the nationally fourth-ranked Crimson Tide, the NCAA runners-up last spring. In the Tide’s most recent event — the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational this past weekend — Furr shot 75-69-68 on a difficult course to tie for eighth place overall.

“Other than a triple bogey the first round, I played pretty well,” he said. “The course was really tight and the weather was really cold, so it was tough. But my game is trending well coming into this week.”

Besides the comfort level of playing at home, Furr knows many of the tour players with whom he will be competing, including Jackson’s own Jonathan Randolph.

“There are several golfers a few years older than I am who I played against in junior golf,” Furr said. “When I looked at the field, there were a lot more golfers I know than I thought there would be. Most of them were 17 and 18 when I was 14 and 15.”

And then there are guys like 49-year-old South African Reteif Goosen, who recently was selected for induction next year into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Goosen has won seven times on the PGA Tour, 14 times on the European Tour. He won the U.S. Open twice, the last time in 2004 when Wilson Furr was but six years old and just beginning to play.

Furr dreams of having the kind of career Goosen has enjoyed. Furr has the potential. He has the swing. He has the power. Time will tell if he has the game.

All we know now is that he will have only one first PGA Tour tournament. And that’s this week on his home course.

You or I would be “pumped,” too.

Email syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.
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