By Dan Reardon
Winning the same professional golf tournament a couple of times against an elite field would usually lead to a higher profile than Jon Curran currently has. However Curran’s success came at an event popular among the players but with its own niche.
The CVS Charity Classic has been around for 18 years, and its roster of champs includes eight major championship winners. It is arguably the highest profile, non-PGA Tour, charity event in golf. With nearly $20 million raised for charity in its history, the two-player, 36-hole, team stroke-play event is the foster child of its New England parents, Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade.
For the last two seasons, the trophy has stayed in native hands as Keegan Bradley has partnered with Jon Curran for the win. Bradley can be introduced on the first tee as a former PGA Champion. His partner, Curran, has a less impressive Brasil Champions Web.com title in his victory column. What the two do have in common is their names are on a trophy at Hopkinton High School in Massachusetts that reads “State Champion.”
Curran’s road has been the typical local streets that trace the journey of a would-be PGA Tour player. In Florida, farmworkers travel from small town to small town picking fruit to pay the bills. Golfers with big dreams visit those same towns looking to play well enough to make a paycheck that gets them to the next week.
Once known as the Space Coast Tour or J.C. Goosie, the NGA Hooters Tour is where Jon Curran first got his foot on the ladder as a professional.
In golf, as in many sports, a player’s name gets smaller as they try to climb that ladder. As a teenager in Massachusetts, Jon Curran was a headline name, winning not only prep tournaments but amateur events as well. He was a semifinalist at the U.S. Junior at Olympic in 2004. He earned All-American honors as a junior player three years running.
When Vanderbilt invited him to become a Commodore, he grabbed the chance to play the game year-round, unlike the winter-shortened seasons in the Northeast. Along with teammate Luke List, another faceless name trying to become somebody on Tour, Curran enjoyed some success, winning a collegiate event at Florida State. But his name was written with a smaller font.
When he turned professional in 2009, that name became a line of agate type on the back page of a small daily, and that was during the good weeks. “Yeah, I played the Minor League Tour down in Florida, won a couple of times down there, which is good because I’d never won anything before. And so that was a big confidence booster,” he said after finding a spot in the Puerto Rico Open in 2013.
“And then I went and took that to the Hooters NGA Tour, and I won the season shoot‑out, which pays your entry fees for the year. That was definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had. And played really well, and then I played well in the first event of the year on the NGA Tour and then came down here and been playing well ever since.”
By 2014 he earned a slot on the Web.com Tour, and he found headlines again with the win in Brasil coming in only his third start. That win was crucial because for the remainder of the year he missed 15 of 25 cuts, including nine of his last 10. But that early success locked him into the top 20 and onto the PGA Tour in 2015.
He scored a T8 in his first time out at Frys, a breeding ground for Tour rookies. Then, as the year before, he made weekends off the rule rather than the exception with seven MCs in a nine-tournament stretch. A notable exception was a top-10 finish at Pebble Beach. Three weeks later, with a playoff loss back in Puerto Rico, Curran was assured another year on Tour.
This year its been much of the same pattern, 11 MCs in 18 times out, but with one bold print exception. At the prestigious Memorial, he earned a handshake from Jack Nicklaus before heading out for a playoff with William McGirt. Both players struggled on the second playoff hole, but McGirt turned the dream into reality with a par.
Curran and McGirt are years apart and didn’t go to the same college, but after that playoff loss the second-year player talked about the fraternity he and McGirt shared.
“I think guys like that have the best success on the PGA Tour. Obviously, there’s some outliers with guys that come straight out of college and stuff like that, but I think guys that really prove themselves over the years and appreciate — not that some guys don’t appreciate it, but really appreciate it and understand where they’ve come from have the best results and the best careers on the PGA Tour. I admire that about a lot of guys out here for sure.”
The guy with 11 missed cuts shot 1-under 70 in Boston, and at 69th he made it to Crooked Stick where he will be hoping one of those out-of-the-blue top 10s that will punch his ticket to Atlanta.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.