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Ex-Bluegrass golfer now climbing a tough PGA ladder

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“I feel my best golf is ahead of me.”

Puerto Rico Open - Final Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Like so many Kentucky high school athletes, Josh Teater of Henry Clay High School of Lexington grew up in the 1980s and 90s (Born in 79) wanting to play sports for his hometown UK Wildcats.

He was an outstanding baseball player and golfer but wasn’t offered a scholarship to join the Big Blue.

“Kentucky was mostly recruiting high-profile high school golfers with a national resume and I only played tournaments throughout Kentucky,” said Teater in a recent phone interview.

But just-down-the-road Morehead State thought he was good enough to play for the Eagles, so they signed him up and he turned out to be good enough to help the Eagles win the 1999 Ohio Valley Conference golf championship and is now a member of the Morehead State athletic Hall of Fame.

“I was a good athlete in high school, some scouts thought I had the potential to become a pro baseball player, but I decided to concentrate on golf.”

During his college golf career, he did manage to get on a few golf courses with his beloved Wildcats.

“We had some tournaments where we were both competing. I never held any grudges against UK – it was always my dream to play for the Wildcats and I am still a Big Blue fan.”

His decision to become a pro golfer has had a lot of ups and downs over the last 19 years but he says he wouldn’t trade it.

He did improve enough to play on the Nationwide Tour in 2009 (now the Korn Ferry tour, the AAA of golf), after playing 6 years on the mini tours. Winning the 2009 Utah championship and finishing 7th on the money list which earned his first PGA tour card. He played the PGA tour 2010-2015 then the Korn Ferry tour (2016-18) and has played the PGA Tour 2019-present and the 2020-21 season will be his 9th PGA Tour season. He hasn’t won a PGA event yet, but he has come close, finishing second in the Puerto Rico Open earlier this year and finishing in a tie for second in another tournament.

In the 2019-20 season he made the cut in six of 15 events, earning over half a million dollars and finishing number 252 in the world golf rankings. He earlier finished second in the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC at Stonebrae.

In his last tournament, the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro he finished 59th.

“I knew I had a chance to make the top 125 and the FedEx Cup playoffs if I could get a top ten finish at Greensboro. I decided to go for broke after making the cut on the number. I knew I needed to shoot 9 under on Sunday and I pressed too hard on my first nine Sunday and lost some strokes.” He finished the first nine three over par but played the last nine two under par and wound up five under overall. He didn’t make the playoffs and has a few weeks off to prepare for the new season.

His official winnings for the year (PGA and Korn Ferry) was $663,570. For his 19-year pro career he has won more than $6.5 million. For his career he has finished in the top 25 in 122 of 319 tournaments.

Competition has gotten tougher over the last few years as dozens of talented young players have come onto the PGA Tour. “Those guys in their early 20s are making it rough for us older guys (he’s 41). They hit it a mile and they are not afraid to win.” PGA statistics show 71 players are currently averaging 300 or more yards off the tee. Those same stats show Teater is not far from the young lions, averaging 294. He is 5-10 and 180 pounds.

Teater is not ready to throw in the towel just yet, however.

“I feel my best golf is ahead of me. A lot of great players did not reach their prime until they were in their 40s.”

Teater got married in 2013 and now lives in Saint Simons Island on the Georgia coast – the mild weather helping him work on his game. The Seaside course at Sea Island is where he gets in most of his practice time – the same track that will host the RSM Classic in November, which he will play.

He and his wife, Ashley, have two sons, ages 2 (will be 3 in October) and 6.

“I hope my sons want to play golf, but we are not going to push them. We want them to make their own decisions about sports.”

But if one of them winds up playing for UK in some sport he would be one very happy pappy.

Ken Mink is a former Herald-Leader sportswriter and 50-year journalist/author. He grew up in Vicco, near Hazard, in Perry County.