‘I deserve to be here’: Gophers’ Angus Flanagan qualifies for 2nd PGA Tour event

University of Minnesota golfer Andrew Flanagan won the Minnesota State Open and set a course record. (FOX 9)

Angus Flanagan says he had to pinch himself on the 10th tee at Riviera Country Club in California earlier this week.

Getting ready to play a practice round with PGA Tour pros Denny McCarthy and Alex Noren, Flanagan spotted major champion Jordan Spieth enjoying lunch. Spieth approached, and asked if he could join them for nine holes. It’s the world Flanagan is in, at least for this week.

The University of Minnesota senior won the Collegiate Showcase on Monday at Riviera, shooting an even-par 71 and beating Tim Widing in a playoff. As he walked up the 18th hole, Flanagan’s playing partner, McCarthy, had some words of motivation for him: "You deserve to be here, you’ve got the game for it."

Flanagan finished with a bogey, and earned the victory with a birdie on the third playoff hole. It gave him an exemption into this week’s Genesis Invitational. He’ll tee it up shortly after 8 a.m. with Willie Mack III and John Augenstein in a tournament that features seven of the top 10 golfers in the world.

"It’s still kind of surreal that a lot of people are saying I deserve to be here. I put a lot of hard work in, so it’s nice knowing that the hard work is paying off," Flanagan said.

Flanagan is still an amateur and in his final season of collegiate golf, but it’ll be his second PGA Tour event. He got an invitation last July to play in the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

He admitted to having a few nerves, and missed the 36-hole cut with a pair of 2-over par 73s to finish at 146 over two days. But Flanagan has game, he won a share of the Big Ten individual championship in 2019 and among others, won the 2020 Minnesota State Open at 15-under par after a final round 64.

Flanagan expects to have a little more confidence in his second PGA Tour event this week.

"I remember at 3M that I was nervous, but playing with the guys I played with out there, knowing I hit it the same as they do if not better, I’m just going to take that as a confidence booster and go from there," Flanagan said.

The ultimate goal is to make the 36-hole cut and play the weekend. If that happens, he might have a laundry issue. He said he only packed about six days worth of clothes, and has been in California since last Sunday.

Gophers golf coach Justin Smith, who watched Flanagan qualify for the tournament from outside the ropes on Monday, will caddie for Flanagan this week.

"Angus is starting to see that ‘Hey, I hit it just as good as these guys, I’ve got the ability.’ It’s just about belief. If he believes that he can go out and keep doing what he started to do on Monday, I think he can show himself in a really good way and springboard himself into something pretty special here," Smith said.

One thing Smith said he won’t do is over-coach Flanagan. He just wants him to play and soak in the experience.

"A lot of times with Angus, the best coaching you can do is to not coach at all. He’s that good, so I’m just going to kind of get out of his way for the most part," Smith said.

Flanagan was 3-under par through six holes at Riviera on Monday before a few mistakes set him back. Whenever this week ends, he’ll get back to life as a college golfer with events in March, April and the Big Ten Championships in early May.

Then at some point, he has a PGA Tour career to think about. For now, he’ll share the top stage in golf with the game’s best for at least two days.

"A few weeks ago I was laying in bed and I was like I could be 70 years old and people would still know me for playing on the PGA Tour, even as an amateur. Even if I don’t make it, it’s a pretty cool kudos to have," Flanagan said.