Another exciting week at the NV5 Invitational. Thanks for everyone who came out to support the event and enjoy the festivities. We were also honored to have Barstool Sports and the ForePlay Podcast live stream ojr event. The first ever on the Korn Ferry Tour.
GLENVIEW, Ill. – Trace Crowe, a conditional member the last two seasons who at times struggled to simply gain entry to Korn Ferry Tour fields, held off Patrick Fishburn and won the NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank with a par on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday afternoon at The Glen Club.
Crowe, who entered the week without a top-10 in 28 career starts on Tour, overcame a triple bogey at the par-4 second, amassing eight birdies en route to a final-round 5-under 66 and 25-under 259 for the week.
A native of Greenville, South Carolina and current Charlotte, North Carolina resident, Crowe became the fourth winner in Korn Ferry Tour history to overcome a triple bogey in the final round. The previous winners to accomplish the feat were David Duval at the 1993 Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, Edward Loar at the 2012 Panama Championship, and Greg Owen at the 2014 United Leasing & Finance Championshp.
A 26-year-old Auburn University alum in his second season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Crowe stood at No. 139 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List prior to Sunday’s win, as he missed seven cuts and recorded a single top-25 in 11 starts.
“I’m still in shock,” Crowe said. “It’s a crazy feeling. It’s been a long, tough, interesting season. To be standing here… it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m just blown away just how good everyone is, and I feel like I just played unreal the last couple days.”
Following an opening birdie at the par-5 first, Crowe blasted his approach over the second green and into a nasty lie in the fescue. Rather than attempt a heroic shot, Crowe took an unplayable and returned to the exact same spot of his previous shot. Although he hit the green this time around, Crowe three-putted for triple bogey.
“I never was going to quit,” Crowe said. “Just straight back into chase mode. That was my only thought, just keep hitting good shots and just relax and enjoy it.”
Crowe bounced back almost immediately, making birdies at the par-3 fourth, par-5 fifth, and par-4 seventh and eighth. Three more birdies on the back nine (at the par-4 12th, 13th, and 15th) took Crowe to 25-under par, enough for a two-stroke lead over Fishburn, Chris Gotterup, and Ryan McCormick as he stood in fairway of the par-5 18th.
Playing in the final group, Crowe watched Gotterup two-putt for par just before Fishburn stepped over a 40-footer for eagle. As Fishburn’s ball disappeared and the crowd roared, Crowe gave a relatively blank stare, undoubtedly stunned by what transpired.
Fishburn willed himself into contention for his first Korn Ferry Tour win with a final-round 7-under 64, and he made just one bogey all week – which came Sunday at the par-3 11th. Across the final 44 holes last week and first 64 holes this week, Fishburn’s streak of 108 consecutive holes without a bogey broke the Korn Ferry Tour record of 106 set by Heath Slocum in 2001.
After a miscue on the lay up attempt, Crowe hit a wedge onto the front portion of the green and made a run at a lengthy winning birdie putt, but he comfortably two-putted into a playoff with Fishburn.
As the two returned to the 18th fairway for the first hole of the sudden-death playoff, Crowe once again laid up. While the result was much better this time around for Crowe, Fishburn pulled a long iron and once again took aim at the green. A soft landing left Fishburn with a little over 20 feet for another eagle.
Once again, Crowe bounced back, throwing a wedge onto the green and draining a double-breaking 20-footer for birdie to stay alive.
“That putt was massive,” Crowe said. “I don’t think (Fishburn) saw that one going in. I think that probably threw him for a loop.”
The two played the 18th yet again, with Crowe laying up again after a drive into the left rough, and Fishburn mashing a long iron into the greenside bunker.
“I had my 6-wood and 2-iron. I needed my 3-wood,” Crowe said. “I had to just keep laying up. It was a bad number, and it stinks sitting there watching (Fishburn) rifle 2-irons at the flag every time. I thought it was going to be the perfect number and it just wasn’t, so we had to just keep laying up.
“I switched (3-wood for 6-wood) after Friday. It was good yesterday, but today it wasn’t so much.”
Fishburn caught his pitch “a groove too low” and left his ball in the bunker. Crowe two-putted for par and the win after Fishburn missed a mid-range par putt to stay alive.
Crowe’s win was all the more stunning considering the fact he struggled to simply get into Korn Ferry Tour fields.
Crowe turned professional out of Auburn in 2020 and finished T91 at Final Stage of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Although Crowe played 17 events in 2022, often near the bottom of the priority ranking, he only managed one top-25 (a T18 at the NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank, oddly enough) and finished well outside the top 100 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List.
In a return trip to Final Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall, Crowe finished T81 and once again found himself buried on the priority ranking to start the season.
Crowe only gained entry to one of the first seven events this season, missing the cut at the Astara Chile Classic in early April. A little less than three weeks later, Crowe survived a 4-for-3 playoff and Monday qualified for the season’s eighth event, the LECOM Suncoast Classic, and eventually finished T53.
The result looked unimpressive on paper, but it became a defining moment for Crowe.
The following week at the HomeTown Lenders Championship in Huntsville, Alabama, Crowe showed up Thursday morning as the first alternate. Dense fog delayed the start of the first round by 28 hours, and Crowe returned to course Friday morning, hoping someone would withdraw.
“I’m on the range and I get a call saying, ‘You’re in,’” Crowe recalled. “I was just excited to play. I took advantage of that and set (myself) up for the rest of the year.”
Crowe finished a career-high T11 at the HomeTown Lenders Championship – which was reduced to 54 holes – and later soared up the priority ranking.
How narrow are the margins on the Korn Ferry Tour? Had Crowe finished two strokes worse the week prior at the LECOM Suncoast Classic, he would have been the first man out of the field in Huntsville.
This week at The Glen Club, Crowe was the 146th player who gained entry to the 156-player field via the priority ranking. Before his win Sunday, Crowe was set to be the 150th player in the priority ranking for next week’s Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.
Instead, the victory moves Crowe to No. 35 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List, putting him firmly in contention for one of the 30 PGA TOUR cards which will be awarded at season’s end.
“You really never know how many starts you’re going to get,” Crowe said of playing with conditional status the last two seasons. “To now be in a position where I can possibly (earn a PGA TOUR card), it’s a dream come true.”