PGA TOUR University could help Austin Eckroat’s decision on pro starts

Wolff, who talks to Eckroat daily and remains one of his closest
friends, fully expects the 21-year-old rising star to be among the top
five in the PGA TOUR University rankings.

“He’s a really good
player and an unbelievable ball-striker. He’s someone I’ve always
respected as a player and is not someone you need to take lightly as a
competitor, because he definitely has a lot of firepower and on any
given day he can go out and shoot a really low score,” said Wolff, who
won the 2019 3M Open and is currently ranked No. 59 in the Official
World Golf Ranking, just 13 months after turning professional.

Wolff
got to see some of that firepower firsthand a month ago. Just weeks
before the PGA TOUR winner finished runner-up at the Rocket Mortgage
Classic, he flew into Edmond, Oklahoma, to hang out with Eckroat and
play a little golf. Despite shooting 69 at Oak Tree Country Club, Wolff
lost by eight shots to his former teammate, who broke the course record
with a 61 – including birdies on the first six holes.

“Oh gosh, I
kicked his ass that day. That was a cool day. Oak Tree is a very tough
golf course, and we were having a friendly game and Matt made the
comment, ‘Well, if I’m going to get my ass kicked, you better shoot 59. I
don’t want to see you shoot 63, it’s not that cool,’” said Eckroat with
a laugh. “But it turned from them getting pissed off about it to
rooting almost harder for me than I was. The funny thing about that is I
think I’ve gotten more publicity from that (round) than anything else
I’ve done in my golf career.”

The Oak Tree 61 wasn’t the only time
Eckroat’s shown he can hang with the pros. From a casual round with
Jordan Spieth in high school to the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach,
where practice round partners included the likes of Dustin Johnson,
Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Gary Woodland, Eckroat has held his own
amongst the game’s best.

In late April, he competed against a
number of pros at the Maridoe Samaritan Fund Invitational – a
Dallas-area event which was launched to help raise funds for Covid
relief efforts. Over 54 holes, the only pros who beat the OSU standout
were Scottie Scheffler, current Korn Ferry Tour points leader Will
Zalatoris, and Hovland.

The three-day event was another testing
ground for Eckroat, who has continued to prove to his peers – and more
importantly, himself – that the PGA TOUR will be his ultimate
destination.

“I’ve told people this before – Matt and Viktor were
clearly better than me when we were in school. It was almost like I was
just one step behind. I finished third most of the time my sophomore
year and they were clipping me by a stroke here and there every round,
but it was nice to know that I could get to their level and I didn’t
feel like I was far,” Eckroat said.

But until then, Eckroat is
back to school for one more year, eyeing three goals: A top-5 spot in
the University Ranking, a National Championship for OSU, and a Player of
the Year nod. Lofty goals for a Cowboy following in the footsteps of
collegiate legends, but certainly within reach given the talent he’s
been surrounded by in Stillwater.

“A big goal of mine has been
Player of the Year. That’s something I really want to achieve, but my
main overall goal is to have a chance at NCAAs with my team and to get
one of those top 5 spots, because that would just make life a lot
simpler when I graduate.”