The kid from Fair Grove who first took up golf at about age 4, then learned the game from his dad and went on to become a state qualifier is about to live his dream.
Brock Derrick is one of the unrestricted exemptions in the PGA Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, which plays Thursday through Sunday at Highland Springs Country Club.
The overall purse is $750,000, and the winner will earn $135,000. To get there, Derrick must make the cut on Friday on a course he worked for – and in a tournament he has long followed.
“It means everything to me. As a kid, it’s like the kid in the driveway shooting (a basketball) that game-winnnig shot in the fourth quarter and making it,” said Derrick, 2013 Fair Grove High School graduate. “For me practicing golf, it was playing in the Price Cutter Charity Championship. And every time I’ve played at Highland Springs, coming up on No. 18, I just picture the stands and that crowd.”
Derrick was a four-time state qualifier. He was 17th at the state meet in 2011, after a runner-up finish in the Class 2 District 6 meet, and was 36th and 28th at state in his final two high school seasons. He then played for Evangel University, earning a runner-up finish at the 2015 Heart of America Athletic Conference and winning the Central Methodist Invitational.
Derrick also was the runner-up of the 2017 Springfield City Championship, tied for sixth at the 2019 Arkansas Open and turned pro a year later. He was 11th at the 2020 Cherokee Strip Classic in Oklahoma and missed two cuts by one stroke in big events on the APT Tour.
All this by a local whose family didn’t have the money for golf lessons. His dad was a huge influence, though.
“We didn’t have a bunch of money for lessons and coaches, so we watched videos and just studied,” said Derrick, who now works at Millwood Golf & Racquet Club. “Who was pretty good? Tiger Woods. So I would try to mimik what he does. And my dad would sit with me on the (driving) range for hours. He always pushed me. It’s going to be pretty special to be out there with him.”
The other unrestricted exemption is Poplar Bluff’s Carr Vernon.
Vernon played on an unrestricted exemption in the 2021 PCCC and missed the cut by one stroke. This season, he qualified for the U.S. Open sectionals, lost in two playoffs in Monday qualifiers at Korn Ferry Tour events in Kansas City and Nashville and has earned PGA Tour Canada status. A year ago, he finished a stroke shy of Monday-qualifying for the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic and was a five-time winner on the Minor League Golf Tour.
In 2015, he played for Team USA in the Palmer Cup.
A Poplar Bluff graduate, Vernon was All-State as a junior and senior (2012 runner-up) and was an All-American at California State-Monterey Bay. At age 16, he qualified for the 2010 U.S. Amateur and, in 2013, reached its round of 32.
The tournament’s two restricted exemptions are Matt Atkins and Nicholas Thompson.
Atkins, 31, is a graduate of the University of South Carolina-Aiken who is originally from Apollo High School in Owensboro, Ky. He turned pro in 2013. He has made seven cuts in Korn Ferry Tour events this year, with a tied-for-41st showing at the Louisiana Open.
Thompson, 39, is a 2005 graduate of Georgia Tech and turned pro that year. He tied for sixth in the PCCC last year.
Meanwhile, Greg Odom Jr. is Korn Ferry’s exemption for the PCCC. He won the 2022 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship for the second consecutive year.
Odom and Howard teammate Everett Whiten Jr. finished 1-2 to lead the Bison to the team title at the 2022 PGA Works Collegiate Championship at Union League Liberty Hill in Lafayette Hill, Pa. They were the only two golfers to finish under par, with Odom’s 6-under 208 total leading the way. Whiten finished 2 under.
“I was just trying to keep hitting golf shots,” said Odom. “Coming into today three shots back, I knew my guys would stay strong. Today we overcame obstacles. This is huge for the Howard golf team.”
In August of 2019, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry announced his support of Howard’s men’s and women’s golf teams for six years, making it the first time Howard men’s golf competed at the Division I level.
In its second year of existence, the Howard men’s golf team capped its season with the MEAC Championship and now the PWCC title.