Winter Park Native Sam Ryder Finds His Way On Tour

Ryder shows how much hard work goes into making the Tour

Cromwell, CT- PGA Golfers are painted as celebrities who play infront of thousands of people, wear fancy clothes, and live an affluent lifestyle. The A-list golfers do so. Rory, Tiger, Phil, Bubba, all carry large endorsements and fandoms. But to get there is a grind. It takes years to achieve such fame. The professional golf life is full of early mornings and tough rounds. Few people embody that quite like Atlantic Beach, FL’s Sam Ryder, a 28 year old rookie on the PGA Tour this year.

Ryder had a slightly unusual route to the PGA. He was born in Winter Park, FL, and was athletic growing up, but not a golfer. He played sports along side members of the Warmoth family, two of whom are minor league baseball players. (Logan with the Toronto Blue Jays and Tyler with the Angels). He did not partake in an organized golf event until he was 16 years old. Hindsight shows golf was the right sport. He shares a name with Samuel Ryder, the English businessman and golf enthusiast who sponsored tournaments, eventually starting the Ryder Cup competition.

After starting late, he caught up to speed. He earned a scholarship to Stetson University, ranking on the All-Atlantic Sun team many times. He owns Stetson records for most career eagles and birdies. His 2011-2012 season in particular set marks for most par or better rounds, most tournament wins, and most birdies.

After his successful career with the Hatters, Ryder turned pro. He competed in PGA Tour Canada for a few years, winning the 2015 National Capital Open to Support Our Troops. He finished fourth in the tour’s Order of Merit, and won a spot in the next tour up, the Tour. There, he competed well and won the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, NE, beating out Scott Harrington by eight strokes. He ranked second in the Tour’s regular season and made the move to the PGA for the 2018 season.

It’s been a grind to achieve the PGA status, but being here is now another grind entirely. Ryder has played in 17 Tour events this year and missed the cut in nine of them. On his 18th tournament and first trip to Cromwell, Ryder cleared the cut and reached the weekend with a -2 through the first two rounds.

On Saturday morning, Ryder hit the course with Denny McCarthy and opened proceedings for the third round of the tournament at 8:15 AM with a sparse crowd and rain falling. Against that backdrop, Ryder scored two birdies on the back nine and looked in good position to make some noise. Unfortunately, his back nine was not terribly impressive. He three-putted 11 for a bogey and missed shots on 15 and 16 into traps. He scrambled for pars and held at -3. Then on 17, he missed a shot into the drink and did not recover. He bogeyed the hole and finished with an even par round, a disappointing result after a strong open.

To make the cut at a notable tournament like the Travelers is a remarkable accomplishment. Ryder is seeing strong successes this year, and after finishing fifth at the Houston Open, making the Travelers cut is possibly his best accomplishment this year. Ryder has made remarkable strides for someone only starting competitively at 16 years old. He beat out Rory Sabatini, Jim Furyk, and Webb Simpson, among others, who missed the cut entirely. But to see a move to the next tier of success will require more days like Saturday: Cold rainy mornings with no one but the caddy to offer encouragement and a playing partner to challenge you. This is the side no PGA Tour member wants, and few fans see. It is essential and will make Ryder’s first tournament win, whenever it happens, feel richly deserved and sweet.