Former Minnesota men’s golfer Ben Greve isn’t really doing anything out of the ordinary. He’s following a line several names long of former Gophers golfers who’ve turned pro by playing on the Hooters Tour.
Greve could have gone with the other option – the Gateway Tour – to prepare him for the PGA Qualifying School.
But he chose Hooters – not for the camaraderie or the familiarity of playing with former teammates, but for his girlfriend, who also happens to be a Gophers alumna: Lindsay Whalen.
“We don’t necessarily get to see each other a whole lot,” Greve said. “If I have a week off when I’m out there, I can drive up and hang out with her a little while, instead of where, if I’m in Phoenix, it’s a flight up there.”
Whalen lives in Connecticut because she plays for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. The reason the Hooters Tour is more favorable to Greve and Whalen, who have been dating for a year and a half, is because most of the Gateway Tour events are in the Phoenix area, whereas the Hooters Tour is mostly on the East Coast.
Greve’s first competition as a pro was in the U.S. Open sectional qualifying, in which he made it through the local stage and went to Maryland to play in the sectional.
He will spend this summer on the Hooters Tour to refine his game for Qualifying School in September.
With more than 1,000 participants competing for 35 spots on the PGA Tour, “Q-School” is one of the toughest tournaments in golf.
“It’s very competitive,” Greve said. “There are three stages, and it’s hard just to get through the first – much less the third stage. But it’s how you get your way up onto the big tours.”
Greve said he’ll likely be sponsored by private businesspeople for three years. That way, if he doesn’t qualify for the PGA Tour, he’ll still have a couple more years to try again. He is going to use his time on the Hooters Tour to build up his self-confidence, which he said is the biggest part of his game that he could improve on.
“In college, I would get very intimidated by my surroundings,” Greve said. “Not necessarily believing I could do it.”
Gophers assistant coach Andrew Tank said the Hooters Tour is a great experience for new pros because it gives them a “flavor” of what life on the PGA Tour is like.
“You’re playing for money, you make your own travel arrangements, you have to make the cut after 36 holes,” Tank said. “So a lot of things mirror the PGA Tour.”
Greve joins a long list of former Gophers who went to the Hooters Tour after their careers at Minnesota, including Simon Nash, Matt Anderson, Justin Smith, Wilhelm Schauman and David Morgan.
But while those were all rather decorated contenders – the first four were All-Americans and Anderson also won the Big Ten Championship in 2003 – Greve was never near that level, with only one career tournament win.
But he said that doesn’t deter his belief that he can be a solid pro. He said he draws confidence from the fact that there are several successful PGA pros who never did much in college.
“Jim Furyk wasn’t a very good college player, and he’s won a U.S. Open,” Greve said. “A guy like Lee Janzen, he’s won a few U.S. Opens and he played Division III college golf. So college golf is a lot different, and those differences can make how you play different.”
Greve said he’s leaving today to visit Whalen through the Fourth of July.
After that, the next big thing on his plate is qualifying for the Scholarship America Showdown, which he’ll play in July 14-17 in Hudson, Wis., if he makes it.
That’s his first chance to actually earn a paycheck as a professional golfer – something he said he has dreamed of doing since early childhood.
“It’s pretty much something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Greve said. “I could have played Division III basketball or even Division II at St. Cloud State. But I always felt I had a chance to go further in golf.”