Robert Streb won a three-way playoff in the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Georgia. Will MacKenzie was eliminated on the first hole with a bogey and then Streb made a 4-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to eliminate Brendon de Jonge.
When I began researching Streb in detail for this post, I was struck by the similarities in his story to mine in my forthcoming book, Generating Miracles: A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour. As regular readers of this blog know, it’s the story of my nine-year effort to Monday qualify my way onto the Champions Tour and how I was astonished to discover God’s hand specifically and pertinently helping me along the way. And both of these chapters in our stories end the way they were meant to, although there is still much more to come.
I first became aware of Streb early this year when he finished T2 to Jimmy Walker at Pebble Beach in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Walker would go on to win the tournament during his incredible three-win year while Streb, who shot 67 in that first round, would fall to T32 with subsequent rounds of 75, 72, 72. Since it was his Sophomore year on the Tour, that was no big surprise.
He got to the Tour in 2013 by finishing 7th on the Web.com Tour in 2012. It was a learning year. He only got into 25 events, missed 13 cuts, had just 5 top-25s and made just $454,871. Almost half a million dollars is a princely sum almost everywhere except on the PGA Tour; he wasn’t able to maintain his exempt status for 2014. He had to hope that his conditional status in the 126 to 150 Category on the Money List would get him into at least some events.
So he wrote letters to tournament directors to try to get sponsor exemptions and Frys.com came through for him:
“Frys was gracious enough to give me a sponsor invite. Mr.Butler did me a huge favor there and let me play. It was the only start I got all fall. So it was huge.”
He didn’t exactly kill it, but he made the cut and finished T51.
He didn’t get to play again for three months until he got into the Sony Open in Hawaii. He was second alternate by the time the dust settled on the Friday entry deadline. It was a long way from his home in Kansas City, but he decided to go for it:
“I was second alternate I think when it closed. I was like, well, it’s freezing cold here in Kansas City, I’ll just go play and see if a couple guys don’t show up. And I think Matsuyama pulled out on Wednesday and Shawn Stefanie hadn’t made the trip and I got pretty lucky.”
Pretty lucky is an understatement. For all the obvious reasons, Sony is one of those tournaments that if you’re exempt and you commit, you go. It’s a great locale to begin to work off the rust, it’s a nice feeder into the West Coast Swing and you can go surfing in the afternoon. In January. Once again, he made the cut, but finished T68.
And then he managed to get into a nice string of tournaments:
“Yeah. Got into San Diego (T19) and Pebble (T32). And then played Puerto Rico (T14), Mondayed into San Antonio (T72), and then ended up playing in Zurich [New Orleans].”
And that’s where he killed it, finishing T2 and earning almost $600,000 and bumping his status up to, “anytime you want to play just give us a call.” And he did. By the time The Playoffs came around, he was 84th on the FedExCup points list, the new standard of success on the PGA Tour.
That got him into the Barclays (Greater New York) where he missed the cut and bumped up to 97th. That was just under the 100 cutoff to get into the Deutsche Bank (Boston) where he finished T9, great in such a small field but one over the 70 threshold to get into the BMW Championship (Denver) the following week. Time to take a break.
Yeah, but…$1.3 million on a very successful year given where he started and fully exempt for the 2015 season. And so…
One of the things the players try to do is express their thanks to tournaments who granted them sponsor exemptions by playing in them once they’ve become successful. Some do so for years. He thanked the Frys.com with a T31 appearance.
Then he was a little more lucky with a T10 in the Shriners Open in Las Vegas (pun intended).
And that led him to today’s victory, his first, but with a slight problem. Starting in 11th place, he probably didn’t expect to shoot a 63 to win the tournament with all the tournament and media responsibilities that would entail. So he missed his connecting flight to New York for the flight to Kuala Lumpur and next week’s CIMB Tour stop.
But no problem. Tournament Host, Davis Love III, invited him to fly up with him in his New York charter along with Will MacKenzie and one other player. Davis Love said that he had never played in Kuala Lumpur before, but he was this week.
This sort of fortuitous intervention attracted my attention to two other stories Streb told in his post-round interview.
The first was how an Oklahoma kid who grew up an OU fan ended up at Kansas State:
“I grew up an OU fan. They didn’t have a spot on the team. They were all full, and honestly, I wasn’t really good enough to go to [powerhouse] OSU. Maybe could have got a walk‑on spot at best. But K State worked out great. Met my wife there and really liked it there and I got a chance to play.”
And it turned out that Kansas State had a great facility and a very good course:
“It’s a very big course. Wind’s always pumping, but it’s a good challenge out there. It’s a good place to try and get better. You know, we were never as great as all the schools in the south, but we do pretty well, and we get a few kids in there that end up really improving and playing pretty well.”
And finally, when you go for big things, it’s always a comfort when a mentor comes onto the scene, frequently from out of left field. Shreb was the second Kansas State player to make it to the PGA Tour and win. The first was Jim Colbert. Asked if he knew Colbert:
“I do. I went to school with his grandkids. One of his grandsons was my roommate for a couple of years, so I know him pretty well.”
Of course he does.
It took me fifty years to see these seemingly innocuous sorts of things happening in my life for what they were. And they transformed me into a very spiritual person who could no longer deny their source.
I have no idea where Streb is on the spiritual scale, his adventure just reminded me of mine in so many ways. And it made my day.