Trevor Cone teeing it up against the best on PGA Tour
Cone, a Virginia Tech alumnus, former ACC champion, and All-American in men’s golf, is now playing on golf’s biggest stage and looking to establish himself among the sport’s greats
Only moments after securing his PGA Tour card, Trevor Cone took a shower.
The suds flowed over his head, across his shoulders, and down his back. He further soaked in their glory by consuming several healthy gulps and ultimately came to an undeniable conclusion that beer showers are the best.
Cone earned the right to partake in this celebratory venture after he obtained his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 of the Korn Ferry Tour points standings at the conclusion of that tour’s season this past August. His 34th place finish at the Pinnacle Bank Championship held in Omaha, Nebraska, enabled him to finish 22nd on the regular season eligibility points list of the tour that serves as a precursor to professional golf’s biggest stage.
Cone, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in marketing from the Pamplin College of Business, made his PGA Tour debut Sept. 15 at the Fortinet Championship held in Napa, California. He became just the fourth Virginia Tech player ever to play on the PGA Tour, joining Johnson Wagner, Brendon de Jonge, and Tim Collins Jr.
Not surprisingly, Cone found himself battling a severe case of anxiety while on the tee box to hit his first PGA shot.
“It just seemed like everything was moving 1,000 miles an hour when usually it's just another day out there,” Cone said via telephone from his home in Charlotte a few days before Christmas. “You always get first tee jitters no matter what. It doesn't really matter, but usually you can get past them, and I don't know. It was interesting. I just couldn't slow anything down, and something so natural to me just kind of felt foreign. And then, that lasted for a while.
“I hit a pretty good shot and ended up making birdie on that hole, so that was cool. And surprisingly, usually when something like that happens, you think you would calm down, but somehow the adrenaline, that was the most adrenaline I probably ever had.”
Cone, a native of Concord, North Carolina, who was an All-American at Virginia Tech in 2014 and the 2015 ACC champion, played in four PGA events this fall and shot under par in three of them, making the cut twice. His best finish came at the Sanderson Farms Championships in Jackson, Mississippi, where he shot 6-under-par for the tournament and finished tied for 45th.
The PGA Tour oddly starts its season in the fall and crosses into a new calendar year toward an August conclusion. But for a lot of fans, January serves as the “real” launching of a new golf season.
Most PGA stars eschew the fall tournaments, waiting until the new year to tee off – names like Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, and Justin Thomas. All 2022 winners and those who finished in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup opened the new year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii, on Jan. 5-8 before hopping over to Honolulu to play in the Sony Open the following weekend.
Cone joined the contingent after receiving the invitation to play at the Sony Open over in America’s island paradise – an event coincidentally won by Wagner in 2012.
“The fall tournaments are still PGA Tour tournaments, but a lot of the biggest players in the world aren't playing every week,” Cone said. “They're not the biggest events, but coming up in the spring, I'm sure it'll be a little bit different. But I wouldn't say it's too much different than the Korn Ferry Tour talentwise. Everyone out there can play, but obviously, the top of the PGA Tour is filled with incredible talent.”
Cone missed the cut at the Sony Open by a stroke despite shooting rounds of 70 and 69. Yet in a sense, the appearance at the Sony Open validated the time and effort that Cone spent on his golf career. He twice fell short of earning his PGA card at the PGA’s Qualifying School after graduating from Virginia Tech. He then spent two years competing on PGA Tour Canada (2016-17) while waiting for an opportunity to compete on the Korn Ferry Tour.
In 2018, while playing on the Korn Ferry Tour under conditional status, he won at the Ellie Mae Classic held TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, California. But from 2019-21, he missed 39 cuts in 60 starts and registered just one top-10 finish.
“I wasn’t playing horrible golf, but if you’re not playing really good golf, it’s tough even to make cuts on the Korn Ferry Tour,” Cone said in an article on PGATOUR.com in December.
Cone has been working with John Scott Rattan, the director of instruction at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. This past May, that work paid off when he won the AdventHealth Championship held at Blue Hills Country Club in Kansas City for his second victory on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The confidence propelled him throughout the 2022 season. With his parents and girlfriend in attendance at the Korn Ferry Tour’s final regular-season event, his season ended with a luxurious beer bath.
“I think Trevor can be as good as he wants to be,” Rattan said. “It’s up to Trevor. I’m saying that almost to challenge him. Trevor can be as good as he wants to be, and if that means he wants to play on Ryder Cup teams and have a 20-year career on the PGA Tour, Trevor can do that. But like anyone in the position that he’s in, he’s got to go out and earn it every day. You’ve got to pay your rent every week on the PGA Tour.”
Not long after earning his card, Cone called Wagner, who also lives in Charlotte. Wagner, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, serves as a mentor to Cone, and Cone gleaned some information on what to expect on the tour.
Cone also has spent the past several weeks working on his game, specifically his putting – an area where he wants to improve. But he shot three rounds in the 60s at The RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia in mid-November to conclude the fall portion of the PGA slate, so he has the game to compete with the best.
Now, the 29-year-old wants to show it consistently.
“My expectations are pretty high,” Cone said. “I would like to win because I think I have the game to do it. It's just putting it all together.
“Obviously, the main goal is to just play well enough to keep my card as a rookie. I think that's a tough task for most guys in their first year, but the biggest goal is just having a good mindset and good attitude out there, just enjoying it. I think over the years after you turn pro, professional golf, it becomes more of a job. Not that it’s a bad thing. It motivates you, but I think any golfer would tell you that whenever they're having the most fun and being carefree and laid back out there is when they're playing their best golf, so that's the biggest goal in my opinion.”