Justin Lower’s long golf memory transports him to his Northwest High School days.
Lower can close his eyes and see No. 18 at Lyons Den − gulch, water, monster oaks, nasty green … one of Stark County’s meanest finishing holes.
“I would hit my tee shot up around the stone,” he recalled recently. “The second shot presents such a small target between the trees, which seems bigger every year.
“Several times in high school, I was a few under par and would make bogey or worse on 18.”
A short memory helps in his current job. Obsessing over missed putts and missed cuts is toxic.
Lower, 34, is in his second PGA Tour season, having made 10 cuts in 21 starts in 2022-23, with winnings of $843,290.
As a rookie in the 2021-22 season, he made more cuts, 15 in 24 starts, but less money, $700,545.
Lower wasn’t in the PGA Championship, won by Brooks Koepka, but at the previous week’s AT&T Byron Nelson he finished 43rd in a field of 156 players.
It was his third cut in his last four starts, following a grind of seven missed cuts in eight starts.
A long memory can be a warming thing.
He is in Fort Worth, Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge, one of the Tour’s five invitational events; Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth and hole-in-one hero Michael Block are in the field.
One of the faces at Colonial stirs memories of Lower winning the 2008 Schorsten Memorial junior tournament as a Malone University freshman. GlenOak graduate Brian Schorsten is Colonial’s director of golf. Brian’s dad Gregg and uncle Bruce launched the junior tournament in 1970.
“Ken Hyland was at Arrowhead to watch Brian win it,” Gregg Schorsten said Monday at his home in Plain Township. “Ken told me that day, ‘Brian will be the first player from Malone to play on the Tour.'”
Hyland, the venerable Malone coach, watched Lower win NAIA awards named after Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Hyland tracked Lower’s long quest on the Korn Ferry Tour that led to the PGA Tour.
“I really believe this is just the beginning of the story,” Hyland said as Lower’s second PGA Tour season got moving. “We don’t know how it’s going to finish, but I think God has plans for him.
“He was a freshman on the Tour last season. I know personally what’s going to happen when he’s a senior.”
Lower’s “sophomore” season began in September with a fourth-place finish and a $360.00 check in the Fortinet Championship.
The Tour was on break just before Christmas when Justin and his wife, Janise, welcomed their first child, Arianna. They live in Green, near Prestwick Country Club.
Justin, Janise and baby Arianna first traveled together to a Tour event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in March.
During a recent stretch of five straight missed cuts, Lower told Golf Digest, “I think my best golf is still in front of me, and I think I’m a lot better than what my performances show.
“I would say, don’t be surprised if I make some noise at some point.”
His showing at the recent Byron Nelson was his best in the 2023 leg of the 2022-23 season.
This week’s event at long, tight Colonial honors the history of golf, especially Fort Worth legend Ben Hogan’s part. The course’s nickname is “Hogan’s Alley.”
The history Lower knows best comes from following Tiger Woods near where he grew up.
“I watched Tiger at Firestone every year for eight straight years,” Lower said early in the season. “The holes where I followed him were 2, 5, 7, 11, 14, 16… that was my route.
“The third round in 2000 is still vivid. He birdied 1 and eagled 2. I was stung by a wasp on 3 or 4. He made the ‘shot in the dark’ on 18.”
Lower could not be reached for an update from Texas, where he was preparing for Thursday’s first round at Colonial. He was assigned to the first group teeing off, with Matthias Schwab and David Lipsky, at 8:20 am
This past Sunday’s hole-in-one by Michael Block took Lower back to May of 2022.
Within the same round at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic in McKinney Texas, Lower made a hole-in-one, an eagle 2 and an eagle 3.
Now he is at a storied course full of harder holes than No. 18 at Lyons Den.
The nickname for holes 3-5 at Colonial is “The Horrible Horseshoe,” which in 2019 Schwab played at 284-over par.
Lower’s last start was hopeful. He birdied five of seven holes to close the front nine en route to an opening 66. He put up 68s in Rounds 3 and 4.
He made a little money and hit Colonial with momentum.
Reach Steve at [email protected]
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Justin Lower joins Scottie Scheffler for PGA Tour Schwab at Colonial