South Carolina golf star chipping away in attempt to break through on pro circuits

Ryan Hall completed his All-American career at South Carolina a year ago with credentials to envy. He then set about to test his skills in professional golf.

He quickly discovered a fact he already knew: Stepping to the next level in any endeavor can be challenging. His trek ranged from Canada to Mexico and points in between with, he said, “not much success.”

But perhaps he turned the corner in recent days. First, he led the field in local qualifying for the U.S. Open in competition in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and he followed up by earning a place in this week’s Korn Ferry Tour tournament by surviving an eight-players-for-three-spots playoff in a Monday qualifier.

Advancing to the final qualifier for the U.S. Open provided a jolt of confidence. Getting to compete in the Korn Ferry event in Knoxville, Tennessee — his hometown — presented a golden opportunity.

“The course (Holston Hills Country Club) is one I have played a lot,” Hall said prior to Thursday’s opening round. “I graduated from high school early and worked at the club until I came to Carolina in the fall. Besides, I get to sleep in my own bed.”

Look at his schedule and, yes, he has not been home too much. He played Canadian and Korn Ferry tour events, plus one PGA Tour tournament, last year. He has spent the first five months of 2023 mostly attempting to Monday qualify on either the PGA or Korn Ferry tours along with mixing in some mini-tour competition.

Example: After the Knoxville tournament ends Sunday, Hall will be in Raleigh on Monday to attempt, if necessary, to make the Korn Ferry field. Then, it’s off to Canada to take a shot at getting into the RBC Canadian Open and also play the 36-hole final qualifier for the U.S. Open in Toronto.

The schedule really gets crazy after that.

His college achievements include the best single-season and career scoring averages at USC, four individual tournament wins and top-5 finishes in 10 of his 35 tournaments.

Despite those credentials, “Ryan has a lot of room for improvement,” USC coach Bill McDonald said last year in gauging Hall’s potential. Hall agreed, and one facet he’s focusing on now is his driving.

“I could just swing hard and still score well in college, but I needed to be more consistent (in professional tournaments),” he said. “I had to get stronger, get in better physical condition, work on my balance, and that’s paying off for me now. I’m driving the ball better, longer and hitting more fairways.”

His top goal is the PGA Tour, and he hopes to take strides in that direction through the Korn Ferry events the remainder of the year and, if needed, advance through the Korn Ferry qualifying school.

The route that players like Hall take in their quests to make golf’s major league is naturally challenging. In those Monday qualifiers, shooting a 65 might not earn a spot in the main event. Is playing well and falling short disheartening or motivating?

“To play well and miss a tournament can be frustrating,” Hall said. “But I want to get to the PGA Tour and feel like I’ll get there.”

His play the past couple of weeks suggests he has taken steps in that direction.

Chip shots. USC’s women’s team dropped a 3-1 decision to Southern California in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women’s Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona. Advancing to match play after a fourth-place finish in four rounds of stroke play, the Gamecocks received their only match-play point from senior Mathlide Claisse. This is the third time USC has finished fifth or tied for fifth in the nationals under coach Kalen Anderson. Clemson tied for 24th in the team competition. ... Catherine Shealy will defend her title in the Sonic Columbia Women’s City Championship, set for June 5-6 at Columbia Country Club. ... Brian Quackenbush (Aiken) and Davis Boland (Louisville, Kentucky) advanced to the U.S. Senior Open in qualifying at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island. ... Registration has opened for the South Carolina Women’s Open (Aug. 11-13) and the tournament’s pro-am (Aug. 10), which will be played at Cobblestone Park GC. Go online to for information. . . . Ron Schroder (Seneca) captured the SCGA’s Senior Championship at Three Pines CC in Woodruff. Eddie Hargett (Blythewood) and Chris Koon (Simpsonville) tied for second.