YORK — Dylan Naidoo had to spend 15 hours sitting on a plane. He then had to spend five more hours in a car, all for a chance to play in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Live and Work in Maine Open this week.
Once he got to Maine, though, Naidoo made his trek worth every minute.
Naidoo, a South African, was one of seven players to shoot a 5-under 67 at a qualifying event at The Ledges Golf Club, gaining them entry into the tournament that kicks off Thursday at Falmouth Country Club. The Korn Ferry Tour is the developmental circuit for the PGA Tour.
“I played great,” he said. “Honestly, I’m super chuffed. This is my first Monday qualifier done, so to get in is great. I know how difficult these things are.”
Joining Naidoo at 5 under were Dominic Bozzelli (Auburn, Alabama), Joshua McCarthy (Danville, California), Mark Lawrence (Richmond, Virginia), Colin Monagle (Jacksonville Beach, Florida), Daniel Hudson (Chicago) and Barrett Kelpin (Kalamazoo, Michigan).
Ryan Gerard (Stuart, Florida) and Andy Pope (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) tied for eighth at 4 under, with Gerard prevailing in a playoff with a par for the eighth and final spot. All qualifying players are professionals.
For Naidoo, the performance sealed his first appearance in a Korn Ferry Tour event, and he faced an odyssey to get here. He took a flight from Johannesburg to France, and then another to Newark, New Jersey, getting into the United States on Friday. On Saturday, he made the drive from New Jersey to Maine.
Why go through the hassle? Naidoo needed a chance to play, and Maine provided one.
“It makes it worth it, all the long hours,” said Naidoo, who made six birdies and one bogey. “This place, for me, feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. You go through all these hurdles, and to play well like that, it means a lot.”
He wasn’t the only one of the 131 players carding scores to make a long trip to The Ledges. Monagle traveled over 1,000 miles from northern Florida, but made it a rewarding trip by catching fire on the front nine after starting on the back.
Even at the turn, the 30-year-old Monagle birdied the second, third and fourth holes, and then holed birdie putts on seven and nine to punch his ticket to his fourth pro tour event. Monagle’s experience includes Korn Ferry tournaments and a PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico.
“All day, I kept thinking ‘Just find a way to get to 5 (under),’ ” said Monagle, who played in the Korn Ferry tournament in Illinois in late May. “It’s huge. … I’ve come out here and kind of picked up where I left off.”
His playing partner, Lawrence, qualified despite playing with a wrist still recovering from an injury that sidelined him from November to May. Lawrence made four birdies on his first nine to put himself into position to make the cut.
“I really wanted to get a start and hopefully play well enough to play some more events for the rest of the year,” he said. “There are a lot of positives to take from it. It was a good day, a good couple of days out here. I really like the golf course.”
The 6,855-yard course got tougher as the day went on.
“I think the afternoon wave had it a little bit tougher,” Naidoo said. “There was a bit of wind and the greens were firming up a bunch, so it wasn’t that easy.”
One of the players prevailing in the tougher conditions was Hudson, who experienced a career breakthrough by qualifying for his first pro tour event in seven tries.
“This is my sixth Korn Ferry (bid) in the last eight weeks,” he said. “I’ve been bumping at the door, bumping at the door. It feels good to get it done.”
Hudson said he didn’t try to do any cut projections in his head.
“I just think, as soon as you start doing that, you start thinking about things you shouldn’t be thinking about,” he said. “I just try to go out there and shoot as low as I possibly can. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”
Some of the local hopefuls in the field ran into some setbacks and challenges. South Freeport’s Jack Wyman, the Maine Amateur champion in 2017 and ’18, was the top Maine player in the field at 2 under, and though he eagled the par-5 seventh was left frustrated by a missed 6-foot putt for birdie on the 18th that, in the moment, would have kept his qualifying hopes alive.
“There’s definitely (wanting to play in Maine), but just more so the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world,” he said. “But it’s all right. You win some, you lose some. Just got to move on.”
Falmouth Country Club professional Shawn Warren entered the qualifier with hopes of making the field for the event at his home course, but he slipped on wet grass Saturday and hurt his back. The back was still tight Monday, and Warren played nine holes before leaving the course.
“The last few days I’ve been trying Advil, ice and a lot of heat to try to get it to loosen up,” he said. “With the whole season still ahead, it was one of those where it wasn’t worth pushing it.
“I definitely wanted to play well today and be able to make it through. I still look forward to having the tournament out there, and I’m fired up to see all the guys coming out. Hopefully next year, get back into it.”