This story appeared in the Winter 2023 Issue of New Jersey Golf. To read more from this issue click here.
New Jersey natives Chris Gotterup, Max Greyserman and Ryan McCormick have amassed a combined five NJSGA titles, and each has been honored as a NJSGA Player of the Year, but all of them dreamed of taking their game to golf’s biggest stage—playing on the PGA Tour.
Gotterup, Greyserman and McCormick have followed different paths in their golf careers, but one constant among them is years of tireless work. In 2023, their countless hours of grinding—on the practice range and in competition—paid off. All three finished in the top-30 of the Korn Ferry Tour standings, thus earning their PGA Tour cards for the 2024 season.
“I don't know how to describe it,” Gotterup said of the moment he earned his card. “I honestly don't really remember much after that for a little bit, but I remember the whole year just, like, went away—all the stress and stuff, it just vanished. It was a cool feeling.”
For some time, there has been just one New Jersey native actively competing on the PGA Tour. Morgan Hoffmann, a former NJSGA W.Y. Dear Junior Champion (2005) had a stellar junior and collegiate career. He turned professional in 2011, initially competing on the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly the Web.com Tour), finishing high enough to earn his PGA Tour card in 2012. In 2017, he notched his highest finish, T-2 at the Honda Classic in Florida. Just a few months later, Hoffmann was diagnosed with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Following his diagnosis, he took an extended hiatus from competitive golf, moving to Costa Rica in order to focus on his health and well-being. In 2022, Hoffmann returned to the PGA Tour for five events. However, he has not competed since.
All golf fans hope that will change for Hoffmann in 2024. If he does make it back out on Tour, he’ll have three fellow Garden State golfers to compete against. Here are their stories.
For Ryan McCormick, the road to the PGA Tour has been long and winding. The son of Suburban Golf Club head professional Mark McCormick, Ryan grew up around the game, starring in high school at Mater Dei Prep in Middletown and then at St. John’s University in Queens. In the middle of his solid collegiate career, he won the 2012 New Jersey Amateur Championship by a whopping five strokes at historic Baltusrol Golf Club. He turned professional in 2014, and his journey since has been a bit unconventional.
Starting on PGA Tour Canada, McCormick lost his card after two years in which he played in 22 events and recorded just two top-10s. He also gave the Asian Tour a shot, traveling over 250,000 miles in a year. 'I was basically commuting from New Jersey the whole year,” McCormick recalled. “I tell everybody I felt like I aged five years within one year. Flying over 20 times back and forth…that was a wild year. [It was] an awesome life experience, but a crazy amount of miles traveled.”
He then made his Korn Ferry Tour debut in 2016, playing in nearly 100 events on that developmental tour over the course of seven years.
McCormick began to take his game to the next level in 2017. Joining forces with Bernie Najar, Director of Instruction at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., McCormick gained 50 yards off the tee, and began seeing marked improvement in his results.
“He's been tremendous for me,” McCormick said of Najar. “I feel like I made steady progress since then, played mini tours, played a lot of State Opens and finally got through Q-School in 2019 in that winter.”
In 2021, McCormick was on the brink of earning his PGA Tour card before a positive COVID-19 test forced him out of the KFT Championship—and out of the standings. In 2022, McCormick was yet again on the cusp of his card but narrowly missed the cut in the finals, once again missing his shot at the Show.
In 2023, it once again came down to the final event of the Korn Ferry Tour season to determine McCormick’s destiny. Up to that point he’d notched four top-10s, one of which was a third-place finish at the NV5 Invitational in suburban Chicago. With so much on the line, McCormick was faced once again with putting his game up to the ultimate test.
“That's why I practiced in the offseason and do what I do and work with the people that I work with,” he said. “I ultimately went out there and trusted my game and my preparation and the belief that my game is going to hold up in what is probably the most important round of my life— and probably on the most terrifying course that you could play it on.”
The 31-year-old shot even par in the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, but then had to wait a few hours to find out if his score would hold up.
“I was extremely proud of the way that I handled it,” he said. “If not for the work that I've done with the people who've helped me, I wouldn't have been able to get through that day successfully. All things considered, [it was] one of the best rounds of my life—on a golf course that I hope I never have to see again.”
The time, effort and dedication paid off. After nine years as a professional, he had broken through, receiving his Tour card in dramatic fashion.
'The support from Suburban over the last 15 years of my life, through college and as a professional, has been absolutely unbelievable,” McCormick expressed. “I don't even know how to put it into words how thankful and grateful I am for them and their support of my family and me. It takes a village. I’m just really thankful.”
Like many athletes, Max Greyserman’s career was nearly derailed by injury— it wasn’t too long ago that he was contemplating a career change. A decorated junior golfer, Greyserman played Division I golf at Duke University. He turned professional out of college, and after five years playing professionally (three of which were spent on the Korn Ferry Tour), Greyserman had a choice to make.
'I had a nagging wrist injury for a couple of years,” he recalled. “At times I didn’t know if I would keep going. I didn't know if I was going to continue playing. There were other times where I felt very confident about my game, so it was kind of a back and forth with my injury.”
In April of 2022, Greyserman, now 28, underwent surgery. Without a clear path back, he was challenged with returning to professional golf.
“Everything was on hold,” Greyserman said. “I wasn't sure what was going to happen next, but fortunately I just stuck with it. I trusted my process and my practice routine and kept at it.”
His perseverance paid off. Greyserman started the first 15 events of the season with seven top-25 finishes. He then notched a solo second place finish at The Ascendant, played at the TPC of Colorado, which included three of four rounds in the 60s. Just a few events later, Greyserman put together yet another strong performance, ultimately earning his Tour card early, something every player on the Korn Ferry hopes for.
“I knew if I just did my job and stuck to the process, I would get the finishes near the end of the season that I would need to get my card. That was a big moment for me,” Greyserman said. “I had to go straight to the airport right after I finished second and I was overwhelmed a bit. I shed a few tears, because I knew I had done it. That's the first time in my life I had that feeling.”
Overall, Greyserman compiled two runner-up finishes, five top-10s and 10 top-25s in 2023.
The summer heading into his junior year at Rutgers University, Chris Gotterup won the 99th New Jersey Open Championship. He had always been a good golfer, but now he was beginning to see what reaching the next level would entail.
'When I was in high school my goal was to play Division I golf, and then when I got there, I realized I'm not as good as I thought I was,” Gotterup reflected. “Something in me made me want to work harder and see what I could do.”
He picked up honors left and right: 2019-20 Big Ten Player of the Year; 2020 First Team All-Big Ten; 2019-20 Big Ten Les Bolstad Award (Lowest Conference Stroke Average); 2020 NCAA Division I PING All-American (Third Team); and 2020 Golfweek All-American. With one year of eligibility left, Gotterup felt like it was time for a drastic change. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma, where his game reached new heights.
“I felt like my time was over there [at Rutgers] and I wanted to try something else,” said Gotterup. “If I was going to play golf for real, I needed to go far away and challenge myself. I did that in Oklahoma.”
He garnered even more accolades in his one season as a Sooner. Gotterup earned the 2022 Haskins Award and the Jack Nicklaus Award. He was also the consensus No. 1 player in the country, consensus first-team All-American, and the Big 12 Golfer of the Year—just to name a few.
“That was an amazing experience, too, and worked out really well,” he said. “Each piece that I've been a part of has made me better for where I am now.”
Gotterup turned professional immediately following his final collegiate season. He earned several sponsor exemptions, making his first start at the RBC Canadian Open, and even picking up a T-4 finish at the John Deere Classic.
“Once NCAAs were over, I had a day in Oklahoma to pack my stuff up, went back to New Jersey and played sectionals (for the U.S. Open) and I was off to Canada,” he recalled. “I had no time to process what just happened at school. I didn't really think about much, I thought that was how it was supposed to be. That helped me play well and not really worry about what I was doing.'
With his time on the big tour playing on exemptions winding down, Gotterup had work to do on the Korn Ferry.
“I didn't have much to lose at that point,” he said. “I was playing on sponsor exemptions. I had no status anywhere. To go play really well that summer and get myself Korn Ferry status was huge. I wish I could have played better and got my Tour card faster, but I think it was like that for a reason.”
It didn’t take long for Gotterup to achieve success on the KFT. He racked up three top-10s throughout the season but was still teetering on the edge of the top-30 list.
He came through big in the final round of the Tour Championship, shooting his best round of the week, a 2-under par 70, to spring up the leaderboard and standings.
“All those guys are really good,” he said of his experience on the KFT. “I took it for granted a little bit, but I worked hard and did what I had to do. It was tough, but it was very rewarding when all was said and done.”
To put the icing on the cake, Gotterup, 24, was able to share that moment of receiving his Tour card with his family. His parents were in attendance as were his brother Patrick (who caddies for him) and sister Anna, a lacrosse player for the U.S. Naval Academy who received a special release to make the trip to Indiana.
“For me, family is very important,” Gotterup said. 'They're all part of it, whether they’re hitting the shot or not. They've had to miss a lot of stuff for me. A lot of time and money has been put into my life, and it's nice to give them some moments like that.”
Gotterup, Greyserman and McCormick all have a few things in common. They love golf and they’re from the great Garden State. And although they've been competing alongside each other the last few years on the KFT, these New Jersey guys have been hopeful and rooting for each other.
“For the three of us from New Jersey to get our card the same year, it’s so cool,” McCormick commented. “I don't know if that will ever happen again. I look up to a lot of the older guys—Bill Britton, Jim McGovern, all the guys that have made the Tour from New Jersey, and it’s so cool to be part of that club.”
They are in good company. Despite traveling across the country for professional events over the past few years, their pride in the Garden State has not wavered, either.
'We all grew up playing the same tournaments and I think it just goes to show that the New Jersey State Golf Association and the Met Golf Association, they're pretty big-time,” Gotterup said. “We're playing bigtime courses. For me, growing up, that's why I decided to not play AJGA events. I thought I was getting better by playing Baltusrol or Plainfield in tournaments. That's where majors are at, that's where PGA Tour events are at. It just goes to show that we obviously have great players—that's never been an issue—and hopefully a continued pipeline,” he added. 'There's been great golfers in the past, like Morgan Hoffmann and other guys who have been on Tour. It goes to show the strength of golf—both players and courses—and how good New Jersey is in that department.”
This story appeared in the Winter 2023 Issue of New Jersey Golf. To read more from this issue click here.