Christmas 6—Anders Larson’s past year has included some learning, some growing, some fun and a lot of time on the golf course.
“There have been times where I’ve shot 84, then turn around and shoot 67 or 68 a day or two later,” Larson said, “but I’ve become more consistent mentally and physically. Growing up and adding a little more muscle has allowed me to be more consistent from hole 1 until the last putt on 18.”
That was certainly the case Monday, when
Larson birdied his final five holes to shoot 7-under-par 65
at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Ill., to qualify for this week’s PGA Tour event, the John Deere Classic.
It was the first time Larson — a Pine Island native and sophomore-to-be at Tennessee Tech University — had teed it up in a Monday Qualifier. He finished in a three-way tie for second place in the 86-golfer field to earn one of just four spots from the qualifier into the John Deere Classic.
When Larson tees off at approximately 2:11 pm today in the second-to-last group of the day at TPC Deere Run — along with Brent Grant, from Hawaii, and MJ Daffue, from South Africa — he’ll become the first Pine Island native to play in a PGA Tour event.
Here’s what to know about Larson, his playing background and the John Deere Classic:
The John Deere Classic will be broadcast on the Golf Channel from 3-6 pm today and Friday. Coverage will be split Saturday and Sunday; the Golf Channel will broadcast from noon-2 pm, then CBS will pick up coverage from 2-5 pm
The JDC will also be
streamed live on ESPN+
from start to finish all four days.
Larson said his first goal is to play well enough in Rounds 1 and 2 to make the cut for the weekend’s final two rounds.
“Reading the names of some of the guys who are in the field is surreal,” Larson told the Post Bulletin on Monday. “I hope to make it to the weekend to play with those guys.”
Golf is in Larson’s blood. He was a multi-sport athlete in his formative years, excelling on the baseball field and basketball court, too, while realizing his passion and his future was on the course.
It doesn’t hurt that his family’s home backs up to the Pine Island Golf Course.
His work ethic and calm demeanor made him a natural leader for a Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa team in 2021 and 2022 that was loaded with talent.
“Every time we go out, even if it’s playing nine at practice, we want to beat each other,” Larson said during his junior season, in the spring of 2021. “It’s a competitive group, but we have fun with it.”
That spring, Larson and his teammates stood to the side of the podium at the Class AA state meet and watched intently as Cloquet was awarded the state championship trophy.
That image was burned in Larson’s mind — and his teammates’ — for a year.
Larson and the Wildcats began ramping up for the 2022 season when the temperature was still in single digits and PIZM’s golfers’ loyalties were split between the Pine Island and Zumbrota-Mazeppa basketball teams.
It paid off.
After Joe Scripture and Collin Fogarty birdied the 18th hole — their 36th and final hole of the 2022 Class AA state meet at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan — Larson followed suit. On the par-5 18th, he put his approach shot just to the right of the green, then lofted a lob wedge to within a foot of the cup. A tap-in later, he secured third place in the state for himself, but more importantly, he secured the first state team championship in program history.
“We started the season in January, as early as I think a golf season’s ever started for our team,” Larson said that day. “Everybody wanted this just as much as the next guy. … To come out and execute like this just shows that hard work pays off.”
Larson took his work ethic south last summer, starting his Division I college golf career at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn., a town of just over 35,000 people, approximately 75 miles east of Nashville.
He was his usual steady self with the Golden Eagles. He had a scoring average of 74.42 as a freshman, second-best on the team, and was in the lineup for all but one of their events.
Larson had the 19th-best scoring average in the Ohio Valley Conference and was named to the All-Conference Team and the OVC All-Newcomer Team.
His 65 at the Big Blue Intercollegiate, at Old Hickory, Tenn., on April 10-11, tied the fifth-lowest score in program history and set a Tennessee Tech record for best round by a freshman. He was also named the team’s Leadership Award winner.
“What an amazing performance by Anders to qualify for the John Deere Classic,” Tennessee Tech head coach Polk Brown said. “Getting through a Monday qualifier is so, so difficult. I really can’t quantify just how tough it is. He works so hard and we are incredibly excited for the opportunity he has.
“He is just a great young man and good things happen to good people. We look forward to watching him compete against the best players in the world.”
Former Rochester Lourdes and Notre Dame golfer Eric Deutsch has seen first-hand what a PGA Tour event looks like from inside the ropes.
Although he said he has never played a round with Larson, Deutsch has played in some of the same events — including last year’s Minnesota Golf Association State Amateur Championship — and is eager to see how Larson fares against some of the best golfers in the world.
“It’ll be an incredible experience for him,” Deutsch said in a text message to the PB. “I’ve only caddied in Tour events and I was nervous doing that. I can’t imagine playing in one. It will be such a great opportunity (for Larson) to learn about what his game is like under pressure.”
Although Larson is playing in a PGA Tour event — and the fanfare and large crowds that come with it — a couple of factors could work in his favor.
The first: Putting. Larson can flat-out putt. He showed that on Monday, needing just 11 putts to get through the back nine of the Monday Qualifier with a 6-under-par 30. With the smooth greens at TPC Deere Run, Larson could make some hay if he keeps the ball in play off the tee and gets to the greens on time.
The second: Youth is on his side. As Larson said Monday night, the difference between him and most of the other golfers in the field this week is pretty clear: They’re all playing to put money in the bank and food on their tables. He’s playing as an amateur, his clubs in his Tennessee Tech-issued bag. Whether Larson finishes first or last, he doesn’t get a dime.
He said playing as an amateur allowed him to play loose and free in Monday’s qualifier. If he can keep that same “loose” approach this week, then who knows? The field is loaded with talented golfers, but just eight of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings are in the field, No. 19 Cameron Young the highest ranked player among that group. Many of the top players are taking the week off, ahead of next week’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in England.
There’s also a history of young players having success in the John Deere — a golfer named Jordan Spieth won this event as a 19-year-old in a five-hole playoff in 2013. Five of the past nine John Deere Classic winners were first- time Tour winners.
Larson was 2 years old when Brandt Snedeker earned his first win as a professional golfer, just 15 miles from where Larson lived.
Snedeker won the inaugural Scholarship America Showdown at Somerby Golf Club in Byron in July of 2006.
This week, Larson and Snedeker are on the same course. Snedeker will tee off at 7:40 am today in Round 1. Larson tees off in the next-to-last group, at 2:11 pm
Snedeker was 25 when he won at Somerby. He’s 42 now and trying to revive a career that has included nine PGA Tour wins and two Ryder Cup appearances. His last win, though, came in 2018. He’s made the cut in two of his four PGA Tour events this year.