One measure of success in golf is compiling multiple accomplishments that can be difficult to prioritize.
Former Baylor School and University of Georgia golfer Keith Mitchell has arrived at such a level.
Mitchell finished second this past weekend at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, shooting a 14-under-par 274 that resulted in a $324,000 payday and a vault from 171st to 97th in the FedEx Cup standings. The 26-year-old was competing on the Web.com Tour this time last year but qualified for the Valspar Championship, where he tied for 11th, and earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com playoffs after missing an opportunity during the regular season by one stroke.
"This is definitely one of the top moments in my career," Mitchell said hours after the first top-10 PGA Tour finish of his rookie season. "It's hard to top Monday qualifying for the Valspar and finishing 11th, because I wasn't supposed to be there or finish that high considering I didn't have a PGA Tour card, let alone having never played in a PGA Tour event. That was more of a building block and steppingstone in my career that showed me that I can compete with these guys.
"This time I earned my place in the field and set my expectations to being in contention on Sunday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to win because of a poor round Saturday, but this is definitely my best finish, and it sets me up for the rest of the season and hopefully my career."
Former Baylor School teammate Harris English tied for fifth at the Corales Puntacana at 11 under, marking the first time two Red Raiders finished in the top five of the same PGA Tour event. As for the two other Baylor graduates on the PGA Tour, Stephan Jaeger finished 2 under at the Corales Puntacana, which was a PGA Tour event for the first time, while Luke List made his first appearance at the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, but failed to advance out of a four-player pool headed by Justin Thomas.
The Dell Match Play contained 64 of the top-ranked players in the world, so the Corales Puntacana provided an opportunity for a first-time winner even though 10 major champions were in the field. Brice Garnett, who finished four strokes ahead of Mitchell at 18 under, was a first-time champion.facebook
"I actually played the Web.com event down here two years ago," Mitchell said, "so I was familiar with the course. That was very helpful in my preparation."
Mitchell birdied the 18th hole Sunday to claim sole possession of second place and the prize money and 165 FedEx points that accompanied it. Given that Kelly Kraft pocketed $204,000 and 105 FedEx points for finishing alone in third, Mitchell's final putt was far from insignificant.
"After finishing 26th on the Web.com money list last year and missing my card in the regular season by one shot," Mitchell said, "it gave new meaning to 'every shot counts.' It's impossible to know how many FedEx Cup points are going to be needed to finish in the playoffs, so any and every point we can accumulate over the course of the season can make a season."
Mitchell's world ranking also catapulted from 361st to 228th, placing him third among the Baylor quartet. List is ranked 67th in the world for a second straight week, while English is 196th and Jaeger 290th.
All four former Red Raiders will be competing in this week's Houston Open. None of the Baylor alumni has qualified for the Masters the next week — English last played Augusta National in 2016 and List as an amateur in 2005 — and the only way to do so at this point is by winning in Houston.
Mitchell is a long shot this week, but he will arrive with momentum.
"It's really a relief getting my first top-10," he said. "I have played so well in a handful of tournaments this season but haven't been able to finish them off on Sunday like I knew I could. Playing well on a Sunday, especially with the birdie on 18, really reminded me that all the hard work and dedication is paying off."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.