Ludvig Aberg had a decision to make after his freshman year at Texas Tech.
He had two options: return to Lubbock for his senior season or turn pro and take his chances with no status on any major tour.
For the then 22-year-old Aberg, the choice was easy.
“Lubbock is my second home and I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else in the past two years,” Aberg told GolfChannel.com. “So obviously I love the people, I love the coaches, I love my teammates and you know every time I go back there, I feel at home.”
When Aberg made his decision, he knew he would have a shot at making the PGA Tour U ranks in his final season under head coach Greg Sands. What he—and everyone else—didn’t know was how much PGA Tour U would evolve as he spent another year on campus.
Following the 2022 National Championship, the top five players in the PGA Tour U standings were rewarded with Korn Ferry Tour memberships for the remainder of the season and were exempt from all open all-court KFT events, starting the week following the end of the college golf season. up to Grayhawk. They were also exempted from the final round of that year’s KFT qualifying tournament.
Not bad, right?
However, he left no immediate path for top college golfer to go straight to the PGA Tour, and he didn’t award the No. 1 differently than the guy who completed the first 5.
That changed in the autumn when the Tour announced player no. PGA Tour No. 1 U would be awarded a PGA Tour card and was further strengthened in early May when the Tour revealed it was expanding that reward to include an extra full season. of PGA Tour status. Then, this year’s No. 1 player after the NCAA championship will earn a Tour card for the remainder of 2023 and 2024, playing in the same league as Korn Ferry Tour and DP World Tour point winners while still being subject to reshuffles.
Since the No. 1 player would retain his PGA Tour status for the following year, that player would not need to compete in PGA Tour Q-School at the end of that first year.
“I think everyone jumped for joy when they saw it,” Aberg said. “I think it will be very, very beneficial to college golf in general. And I think it will only make it better. Because now there is an incentive to stay in school. There’s, you know, a clear path to the PGA Tour through college, which is amazing. I think they did an amazing job.”
Coach Sands, who watched Aberg transition from a talented young high schooler in Helsingborg, Sweden, to arguably the best men’s college golf has to offer, was thrilled for his star player and is thrilled with how his leader veteran handled the pressure of holding that first place.
“Well, that’s great for college golf,” Sands said. “It’s an incredible carrot at the end of the stick, if you will, a reward for two great years of playing golf. And really, I’m so glad he made the decision himself to stay here and knew he was going to be the leader and he’s been playing really great all year handling the future noise and the PGA Tour U noise and so you couldn’t ask more professionalism. He just handled it fantastically.
To say Aberg handled the pressure well would be an understatement. The Texas Tech leader has elevated his game in the stretch of his final collegiate season to a level that has left no doubt which player deserves an immediate ascent to the Tour.
In three starts leading up to the National Championship in Grayhawk, Aberg was unbeaten.
His run began in Hutchinson, Kansas where he defended his Big 12 Championship at Prairie Dunes with a sensational eight stroke victory.
He followed that performance with a one stroke victory in Odessa, Texas at the local US Open qualifier, which preceded the NCAA Regionals, where Aberg hit towering fade after towering fade to Jimmie Austin in Norman, Oklahoma, to outshine a pair of Sooners on their home course and lead his team back to Grayhawk.
Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl has taken a close look at Aberg over the past two seasons and has been raving about the Red Raider’s talent and mentality on the golf course.
“He hits the ball as good as anyone else. His putter is as good as anyone else’s. The chipping of him is as good as anyone. And he’s acting like a 35-year-old man out there,” Hybl said. “So I’d say overall he’s got all the pieces.
“And it’s just easy to go to the golf course, which I think makes it fun to watch him play as well. Kind of reminds you of Ernie Els. The game doesn’t seem very difficult. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s really impressive.”
Aberg had a 74-point lead over North Carolina’s Austin Greaser in the PGA Tour U standings on Feb. 1st. His lead is now over 260 points heading into the national championship, which is greater than the gap to world no. 2 to no. 21.
As if Aberg wasn’t playing well enough heading into his last collegiate event, he went 13-under 59 on the eve of the national championship.
He’s certainly making the most of his final days before turning pro. Aberg received the Ben Hogan Award on Monday for the second straight season, becoming just the second player to win the award in back-to-back seasons. The other boy? Jon Rahm.
The late-season success has the Swede looking forward to one last game at Grayhawk.
“I can’t wait, to be honest,” Aberg said. “This is what we play for, the championships. I’d like to get a national championship, both individually and as a team. So hopefully, you know, in terms of preparation, very similar to any tournament you play. You just try to stick to your game plan, and yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
If Aberg can back up his Big 12 and NCAA regional victories with an individual national championship, he will not only have a Tour card through 2024, but he will also be exempt from the 2023 US Open and 2024 Masters, giving him even more opportunity to kick off to his professional career.
Waivers from these two majors for the NCAA champion were announced earlier this year, and Coach Hybl loves the recognition top college players are getting from the pro ranks.
“I always think it’s phenomenal when our guys continue to get noticed as the next elite player in the game of golf,” Hybl said. “So I think it’s a special time for the college game. You know, we’ve had discussions over the years about how many different opportunities maybe our kids should have and it’s starting to happen… So it’s just, it’s very worthwhile. These are the next generation of great golfers.”
As exciting as the future is for Aberg, it signifies the end of a collegiate career that has seen him rise from a talented prospect to a budding star.
It means moving from his “second home” and moving on to the life of a professional.
Aberg tried to put into words the excitement of the “lasts”: his last Big 12 championship, his last regional championship and now, his last NCAA championship, all while finishing his graduation and preparing for the next phase of the life.
“It’s a little complicated,” Aberg said. “I mean though, I was a bit overwhelmed, I’m not going to lie, because there’s a lot going on. And at the same time, I want my school to do well too. I wanted to get a degree. This is one of the reasons I came to college because I wanted to complete my education. So there’s a lot to balance.
“I hope I can come back and I hope they will welcome me in the next few years as well. And you know, Coach Sands has helped me, he has given me so many opportunities to be able to be in the position I am and I am beyond grateful for that, I hope to win a national championship to end my career too.”
National championship or not, it’s safe to say Aberg will be welcome in Lubbock any time.
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