After two years of struggle, ex-NCAA champ Chappell headed to PGA Tour

kevin chappell
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Unlike some of the PGA Tour's young stars, Kevin Chappell didn't go directly from college to the big time, but he believes he's better off having to work his way up through the ranks.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press


Published: Friday, December 24, 2010 | 5:54 p.m.

Two years after he led UCLA to an NCAA title, Kevin Chappell is headed to the PGA Tour.

With his first Nationwide Tour victory among seven top-10s in 2010, he finished the year ninth on the money list with $326,507 and easily was among the top 25 players who graduated to the big leagues.

“If I look at it emotionally, it feels like a very long time,” Chappell said. “But if I look at it in terms of my career, it feels like a short time. If I want to play until I’m 50, then it’s only two years out of about 30.”

Chappell won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2008 as the nation’s top college player, and he had high expectations. But he started his first full season as a pro with no status on the Nationwide Tour, and he had to try to Monday qualify.

He missed out on his first nine attempts.

What kept his spirits high was his performance at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he tied for sixth in a tournament that was shortened to 54 holes because of rain. That was worth $197,487, and it was enough to pay the bills as he struggled on the Nationwide.

“I felt like I was playing with house money,” Chappell said. “But it still was stressful to shoot 68, feel like I was playing good, but not get into the tournament. Once I got in, I was able to break down that wall, and it seemed like it was easier.”

With a full schedule this year, Chappell had top-10s in two events before February, won the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic and tied for second in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, which put him atop the money list in May and sent him on his way.

And while he didn’t go straight from college to the PGA Tour like Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes and most recently Rickie Fowler, Chappell thinks he might be better off.

“My whole career has been about improving, stepping up the ladder when I was ready,” he said. “With my personality, I think it would be harder for me to take a step back than to start from the bottom and work my way up.”