Patrick Fishburn says he “tries not to think about it,” but as he nears the completion of his first full season on the Korn Ferry Tour, he knows he needs a good finish or two so he can compete in the all-important season-ending tour finals.

The long-hitting 29-year-old BYU graduate needs to finish in the top 75 to qualify for the Korn Ferry’s three-tournament finals, which begin in Boise two weeks from now. He currently stands No. 82.

Fishburn is playing this week in the Utah Championship, where he got off to a solid start with a 3-under-par 68 at Oakridge Country Club. It’s the same score as Daniel Summerhays and three shots better than Rhett Rasmussen, the two other Utahns in the tourney.

With just next week’s tournament in Omaha left before the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Fishburn knows he needs to step up his game.

For most of the elongated Korn Ferry season, which was extended into a two-year affair due to COVID-19, Fishburn has been comfortably in the top 75. He tied for fourth in the second event of the 2020 season, 18 months ago, and also came up with a T-5 in Wichita last September. That put him within reach of the top 25, which would give him a spot on the PGA Tour, but 2021 hasn’t been as productive with his best finish being a tie for 17th place.  

“It’s all in my hands if I just go out and play,” he said after his Thursday round when he made five birdies to go along with two bogeys. 

Fishburn calls his year and a half on the Korn Ferry Tour “a lot of fun” and adds, “It’s been great — I get to play every day at a great golf course.”

But it’s also been a challenge as he averages about $3,000 a week in expenses, which means the $123,087 he’s won in 36 events, barely covers what he’s shelled out.

“There’s certainly some long weeks on the road where it starts to pile up, but it’s what all of us have wanted to do our entire lives,” he said.

Fishburn’s 68 puts him in a tie for 43rd place with 27 golfers, five shots off the lead set by Joshua Creel and Mark Blakefield, who both came in with 63s. That’s precariously near the cut line as the top 65 and ties qualify for play on the weekend and the 69s are tied for 71st place.

“You can’t win the first day for sure,” Fishburn said. “It’s not far off. I think I can shoot a low score tomorrow.” 

The 37-year-old Summerhays, who is contemplating making golf a career again after working as a high school teacher for a year, got off to a slow start with a bogey and a double on his first nine, before coming back with three birdies on his second nine.

Rasmussen, a former junior star in Utah golf who finished his collegiate career at BYU in 2020, earned one of eight qualifying spots for the tournament Monday. He’s been playing on the PGA’s Forme Tour, the former Canadian Tour, but hasn’t made a cut in four tournaments there.

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Wyoming native Creel has great memories of playing in Utah, particularly 2019 when he tied for first before losing in a playoff. However, he says he’s haunted “every day” by an 8-foot birdie putt he missed on the final hole that would have won the tourney for him.

Blakefield is a 39-year-old from Kentucky who has never finished in the top 100 in his three years on the Korn Ferry Tour. He has three top-10 finishes, including last year in Utah when he tied for eighth.

One stroke back at 64 are four players, including Derek Ernst, a 31-year-old former winner on the PGA Tour and 50-year-old Steven Alker, the 2013 winner of the Utah Championship.

Mike Sorensen is a Deseret News contributor.

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