Justin Lower takes no offense with being labeled a journeyman golfer.
“It fits,” said the 32-year-old from Canal Fulton, Ohio, whose six seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour have included tons of rough road trips and a fair share of heartbreak.
Nothing hurt Lower (pronounced Lauer) more than an excruciating brush with golf greatness. Needing to make an 8-foot putt on the last hole of the 2018 Korn Ferry Championship to reach his goal of moving up to the PGA Tour, Lower’s putt burned the edge of the cup, a miss that ultimately kept him $500 short of earning PGA Tour status.
Hard moments like that leave scar tissue. Lower tried to bandage the wound by using the missed putt as motivation, but the psychological ploy backfired.
“I learned the hard way that it was hurting me more than anything,” he said on Thursday after shooting a 4-under-par 67 that put him near the top of the leaderboard at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at the Ohio State Scarlet Course.
A top-10 finish this week would put the Malone University graduate and 2010 NAIA Nicklaus Award winner in a strong position to finish among the top 25 players receiving PGA Tour cards at the completion of the three-event Finals next week.
Rather than focus on his 8-foot failure, Lower flipped the switch by viewing tapes of him coming through in the clutch.
“There’s a video I watch from the finals of the 2017 Q School where on the last hole I knew I needed the putt to get guaranteed starts (on the Korn Ferry Tour),” he said. “It was about a 12-footer and I poured it right in.”
Not bad for a journeyman.
Lower told himself in 2012 that he would give professional golf about seven years, and if he did not reach the PGA Tour by then he would find another career.
Nearly a decade later and he’s still grinding away, chasing a dream that continues to elude him. What gives?
“I just love the game,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything else. It’s fun. I have an unbelievable support system: wife, family and friends. I’m lucky, for sure. I have one of the best jobs in the world.”
The challenge is remembering how blessed he is, especially when things are not going as planned on the golf course. He cites lack of patience as the thorn in his side.
“I’m always working on my attitude and keeping level-headed. That’s not easy for me,” he said. “I need to learn to not get greedy at the wrong times.”
The final step in mental evolution is believing in himself the way others do.
“I think I’ve got every shot. Everyone tells me that,” he said. “Everyone says it’s my time Whether it is or not we’ll see.”