Ashburn, VA (Feb. 7, 2016) – Life as a mini tour professional golfer comes with little glory and lots of stress. It includes long hours of hard work usually from sunup to sundown, practically living in a car driving from one event to the next, all while spending a fortune just to stay afloat.
Kevin McLister knows this well, as he has been playing on the developmental pro tours since 2011.
“It’s not quite what people make it out to be, it’s not a whole lot of fun,” McLister said, “paying a lot of money, not making much money, if any, you’re living off of someone else, you’re living off of sponsors, you’re just not independent. I think the hardest thing is finding the money to play and then breaking out of it.”
McLister, a 2007 graduate of Loudoun County High School, has taken a step in the right direction in terms of breaking out of life on the mini tours. The Loudoun native, who grew up playing at Loudoun Golf and Country Club, finished 10th at the Asian Tour Qualifying School to earn status for 2016.
No, Q-School does not involve taking tests, rather it is a series of tournaments capped off by a final stage with four grueling rounds that ultimately decide your fate for the next year, and potentially beyond. McLister got off to a torrid start as he fired rounds of 64-66-74-71 (-9), finishing just four shots out of first place. The event was held from Jan. 13-16 in Hua Hin, Thailand.
“It was huge, every Q-School is the biggest tournament of my life and you can’t go anywhere without status,” McLister said, “so it was the biggest accomplishment to date, but also just the start, hopefully, of something pretty special.”
This was the eighth Q-School of his career, as he had chased status in the United States, Europe and Asia since graduating from the University of Delaware in 2011. Falling short each of the previous seven attempts, McLister was relegated to more grueling years on the mini tours. But he left those setbacks in the past as he was determined to make 2016 his year.
“It was confidence and comfort,” McLister said, “I was very comfortable with the situation, and I had very high expectations because I’d seen a lot of progress the whole year, and I felt like it was only a matter of time before I broke through. There was never really a time I thought I wasn’t going to get through, which was pretty cool.”
According to McLister, playing golf for Delaware for four years put him on the path to where he is today. Although he always knew he wanted to play professional golf, he really set his plan into motion during his senior year with the Blue Hens.
“It was the experience, playing as much as you possibly can, being under the gun, having a chance to win, getting a team win,” McLister said, “I think a lot of that was pretty important to becoming a professional golfer.”
Although college golf provided him with important tools, the journey toward this monumental achievement was really put into motion after McLister made a coaching change in September of 2014.
He began working with Patrick McGuire, the Director of Instruction for the Raspberry Golf Academy, a company based out of Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg. McGuire coaches professional golfers around the world, and uses a team-based approach with swing coaches, mental coaches and trainers.
“I don’t think I would be sitting here with status on a worldwide tour right now without them,” McLister said, “I’ve learned so much, not just the golf swing, but I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s some of the best coaching that anyone could possibly get.”
In June of 2015, not long after making the coaching transition, McLister earned his first win on the eGolf Professional Tour, the mini tour he had been competing on since 2011. He scorched the field as he fired scores of 66-62-66-66 (-20) in Morganton, N.C.
“That was the first real step of my confidence building through the year,” McLister said. “I was really happy with the way that I did win, with my final round being very boring with a ton of pars, then getting past that, and then going birdie, eagle, birdie down the stretch. That was really key to trusting in a lot of the work that we were doing.”
Another significant contributor in his journey has been his older brother, Joey, who also pursued his dream of playing professional golf for several years. The two even lived together in Charlotte, N.C., which was the home base for the eGolf Pro Tour, as they grinded away to break out on the mini tours.
“I owe everything to Joey, he paved the way for me with scheduling, where to live, where to play, it was very easy for me to transition into the professional level because he had been through it all,” McLister said.
Now the only member of the McLister clan seeking the holy grail of ultimately reaching the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour, Kevin is in position to climb the world rankings. The Asian Tour is one of the world’s top tours, only behind the PGA Tour and the European Tour.
McLister will participate in his first Asian Tour event Feb. 10-13 in Bangladesh, and expects to play in about 15 of the tournaments this year. He will continue to play in some U.S. mini tour events when he is on breaks from the schedule in Asia.
Viva Loudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Josh Apple
Special to Viva Loudoun