Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
He wasn’t putting well. Six tournaments to start the year and only one top-25 finish — it was 25th place. And two missed cuts. Something had to change for Lanto Griffin.
Griffin, who played on the PGA Tour in 2018, was back on the Korn Ferry Tour trying to earn his PGA Tour card again. He is one of three former Rams to play at golf’s highest level.
He was playing at his home course, TPC Sawgrass, on an off week with a friend when he tried something out. Griffin pulled his friend’s putter out of the bag and wanted to see if it would make a difference.
“[We] were playing, and I ended up grabbing his putter and it felt really good,” Griffin said.
Griffin decided to use that putter in his next tournament after playing with it.
That same day, 2000 Masters champion and longtime PGA Tour veteran Vijay Singh was at the course. Griffin told him about his putting struggles, and Singh offered some help.
“He said keep your right elbow inside and bend down a little more,” Griffin said.
The next tournament Griffin entered a week later, he won.
“The combination of [the tips] and getting the new putter seven days after that — my first event back — I won,” said Griffin, who graduated from VCU in 2010.
Griffin won the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship in Prattville, Alabama, at 15-under. He beat Robby Shelton in a four-hole playoff for his second Korn Ferry Tour win of his career.
That win sparked something in Griffin’s game. He went on a 10-week stretch with eight top-25 finishes, including a second place finish.
After his second place finish at the Dormie Network Classic in late April, Griffin knew he had enough points to secure his PGA Tour card for the 2020 season. This year differed from his first go around in 2017, when he earned his tour card in the final weeks of the season.
“It put me over 800 points, so I kind of knew it was locked up then,” Griffin said. “Two years ago, I was in the 21st to 24th rank the last 10 weeks, so every single week I felt like I had the world on my shoulders.”
With the Korn Ferry season running from January to September, earning his tour card in April allowed Griffin to rest more than he did in 2017.
“The fact that I knew I was going back to the PGA Tour, I could rest more,” Griffin said.
He didn’t play in the Albertsons Open last weekend, marking his seventh week off this year. “Whereas two years ago I played every single event I could get in,” he said.
Griffin was also able to play with less pressure because he knew he was headed back to golf’s highest level next season.
On the PGA Tour, Griffin will see a familiar face dating back to his freshman year at VCU. Rafael Campos, Griffin’s freshman-year roommate, earned his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Tour this year.
— VCU Golf (@VCU_Golf) August 11, 2019
Griffin and Campos join John Rollins as the only VCU alumni to play on the PGA Tour. Rollins, who graduated from VCU in 1997, has three career PGA Tour wins — the only wins on Tour by a former Ram.
The duo have their names littered across the record books in Richmond, as they are tied for the second-lowest round in program history (65). Campos, Griffin and Vincent Nadeau led the Rams to the lowest combined score as a team in 2009 at the Palisades Collegiate Classic.
“They were in their infancy,” coach Matt Ball said. “They ran hot and cold at times. Having those three guys and a few guys to back them up, we had a few record low rounds. But man, it’s nice to have some horses on your team like that that you can count on to get you some scores.”
In 2009, Griffin and Campos led the Rams to the fourth CAA Championship in program history. Griffin was named CAA player of the year and first team All-CAA that season.
“He finished second seven times and never could win,” Ball said of Griffin’s college career. “A part of that was mentally believing that he could. But I said once he wins once, he ain’t gonna stop. He told me that there was only one year in mini tour golf when he made money, but he won five times. Now he’s won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour.”
Campos earned a win on the Korn Ferry Tour this season at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club, becoming the first native of Puerto Rico to win on tour. The win was the first of his career on the tour, coming in the second week of the 2019 season.
The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native clinched his tour card after making the cut at the Portland Open. He entered that tournament only needing one point to earn his card.
“It hasn’t sunk in, but a lot of hard work …[I am] heading to the PGA Tour,” Campos told the Korn Ferry Tour after earning his card. “I’ve waited so long. So long for that. Really hard. [I] won’t lie to you.”
Griffin used his experience from the PGA Tour in 2018 to focus on making it back. He made 26 starts on the Tour a year ago, finishing as high as tied for 12th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“The more you do something, the more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the easier it is the next time you have it,” Griffin said.