Tag Ridings of Great Joy

COURTESY PGA TOUR ENTERTAINMENT

Veteran golfer wins his first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in nearly 19 years at TPC Colorado Championship.

It wasn’t quite as momentous as 51-year-old Phil Mickelson winning this year’s PGA Championship, but 46-year-old Tag Ridings’ victory in the 2021 TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes in Berthoud on Sunday easily had a far more compelling script.

Prior to the victory in the Korn Ferry Tour event, Ridings hadn’t won a PGA TOUR-sanctioned tournament since the 2002 WNB Golf Classic—a Buy.com Tour event in Midland, Texas. In the 6,895 days since that victory, life changed considerably for the one-time University of Arkansas golfer.

Six months after that win, he met his future wife, Brenda, who caddied for him at the TPC Colorado. The couple now has a 14-year-old son and daughters who are 12 and 8. Neither Brenda nor their children had ever seen Tag win in more than 400 professional starts. In 2005, his best season on the PGA TOUR, he’d finished 91st on the money list, earning nearly $900,000.

After making a putt to cement his place in the playoff, Ridings is congratulated by Tyson Alexander (without hat), the third-round co-leader with Taylor Moore (far right). (PGA TOUR ENTERTAINMENT)

Paired in the final group and starting Sunday two shots behind co-leaders Tyler Alexander and fellow Razorback alum Taylor Moore at 12-under, Ridings carded a 4-under 68 to get to 16-under for the tournament. His clutch par putt on the 18th forced a sudden-death playoff with 39-year-old Englishman David Skinns, whose 65 was the low round of the day, and 22-year-old Kevin Yu, a recent Arizona State graduate who was making his fourth Korn Ferry Tour start as a member of the inaugural PGA TOUR University class. The three established a new four-round scoring record for the three-year-old tournament, their 16-under-par eclipsing by one shot the record shared by previous winners Nelson Ledesma and Will Zalatoris at 15-under.

The playoff took place at “Center Stage,” the appropriate name for the photogenic 140-yard par-3 16th, a signature hole where the elevated tee sits directly behind the clubhouse and 60 feet above a green backed by the recreational waters of McNeil Reservoir and the majesty of Longs Peak.

After Skinns drained a 33-footer for birdie, Ridings faced down a curling 13-foot putt similar to one he’d left short the same hole during regulation. This time, he buried it to extend the playoff.

“There’s no way I make that putt on the first hole of the playoff if David hadn’t already made his,” Ridings would say later.

A par on the first playoff hole eliminated Yu, so Skinns and Ridings teed off again on 16, with the Englishman missing the green and leaving himself a par putt of 15 feet from the fringe. Ridings found the green off the tee and lagged a putt inside of three feet. Skinns’ putt lipped out, leaving Ridings to tap in for the victory.

Tag Ridings releases his emotions after sinking the winning putt at TPC Colorado. (PGA TOUR Entertainment)

“I’ve stayed awake at night hoping to win a tournament while my kids were alive,” an emotional Ridings said afterwards.

The victory earned Ridings $108,0000 and 500 points, propelling him from 138th to 69th in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings and squarely on the Korn Ferry Tour Finals bubble. It also marked his first top-five finish in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event since a T3 at the 2017 Barbasol Championship.

“I didn’t go on a huge missed-cut streak, but I was finishing 70th every time I made the cut,” he said. “You don’t make money doing that. It’s just been a stretch of trying to stay in there, pay the house bills, and keep going.”

He admitted to allowing some other career options to creep into his mind for the last year. “But I pushed them away, and here we are. I can push them away a lot farther now.”

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