Thirteen years after leading Rollins to a national championship, Rob Oppenheim ’02 is playing the best golf of his career.
(Photo courtesy of Rollins Athletics)
It’s 4:30 on a Monday, and Rob Oppenheim ’02 is swatting range balls not at Isleworth or Bay Hill or Lake Nona … but alongside everyday Joes at blue-collar Winter Park Pines, a rather humble place to find the newest member of the PGA Tour.
“You’ve gotta stay true to who you are,” says Oppenheim, who lives in nearby Baldwin Park. “I’m trying not to change a thing.”
As a senior, Oppenheim led Rollins to a national championship and was named NCAA Division II player of the year. Ever since, he’s been playing in the equivalent of golf’s minor leagues, trying to earn a call-up to the majors.
Each year, 50 PGA Tour cards are up for grabs among players on the Web.com Tour. On October 4, Oppenheim, 35, played just well enough to snag the last one. Less than a month later, he says, this new reality is still hard to believe.
Rob Humphreys: Congratulations on realizing your dream. How’s life treating you?
Rob Oppenheim: It’s been amazing. I still don’t know if it’s hit me yet, but once I get out there playing it will. It’s been nice hearing from people I haven’t talked to in a long time, and everyone at Rollins has reached out. When I went to the PGA Tour’s rookie orientation, I was definitely the oldest guy in the room. It’ll definitely be a bigger stage, but at the end of the day it’s still golf.
RH: You earned your card in pretty dramatic fashion. Describe how it all came together.
RO: The top 25 regular-season finishers on the Web.com Tour are first to qualify for the PGA Tour. After that, there’s a six-tournament playoff—what used to be known as Q School—that decides the final 25, based on total money earnings. I had finished 26th in the regular season and missed a card by one shot. When I finished the final round of the last playoff event, I was projected to come in 28th, so I got in the car with my wife and started driving home. About half an hour later, we had to drive back to the course because I actually came in 25th by $101. It’s just crazy how everything unfolded. Going from a pretty low point in my golf career a month ago to the high of earning my card, it’s been exciting.
RH: Take us through your career from Rollins to today.
RO: When I turned pro, I played on the Canadian Tour for about five years. That was a great experience, learning the ropes of professional golf. Finally, I broke through and made it to the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour), and I’ve played that for the past six years. It was tough doing all that traveling, living out of a suitcase, no home whatsoever, not knowing if you’re going to make it. There’s no question you have doubts, especially when you get so close. One year I missed getting my PGA Tour card by two shots, and another year I finished 42nd when only the top 40 qualified.
RH: Do you still have close ties to the Rollins golf team?
RO: Absolutely. I’m a sports junkie, and I’m always going to as many Rollins sporting events as I can—whether it’s golf or basketball. [Golf coach] Kyle Frakes and I are good friends, and I still feel very close with the athletic department. Rollins is definitely one of the reasons I’m still living here. I’ve made a lot of friends from the College, and I don’t want to leave the area.
RH: When can we expect to start cheering for you on TV?
RO: The 2016 season actually started in mid-October, but I probably won’t enter my first event until the Sanderson Farms Championship November 5-8 in Jackson, Mississippi. After that, I’m hoping to play at stops in Cancun, Mexico, and Sea Island, Georgia. In all, I’ll probably get 18 to 20 starts this season.