Ryan Siegler wants to join the PGA Tour. More importantly, he believes in his ability to live out his dream and become just the second West Windsor area product to make the PGA.
It’s not a lifelong dream, but rather one that has been building for less than a decade. The goal took a big step toward reality when the 2012 High School North graduate qualified for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour, the step below and the most direct path to the PGA Tour.
“It goes back to improving,” Siegler said. “For the last seven or eight years, I’ve gotten better and better. I’ve been around those types of guys. I feel like my game is good enough that I can play with anybody. If I can do it at the right time, I can achieve what I want to achieve.”
Siegler graduated from Towson University in 2016 and played as an amateur that year before turning pro in 2017.
He played 14 events in 2018 and nine events in 2019 on the China Tour, and his status and performances allowed him to bypass the pre-qualifying stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament, also known as Qualifying School or Q-School.
Siegler was exceptional in the first stage. He finished 22-under for 72 holes and placed second overall in Kannapolis, North Carolina, on Oct. 4. He followed it up with a fifth-place finish at 13-under for 72 holes in Brooksville, Florida, to gain a spot in the final stage. His driving length and accuracy came up big as he eagled the par-5 seventh hole to highlight his second stage weekend.
“My ball striking was what I was happiest about,” Siegler said. “I only had one bogey for the first 36 holes. That helped me take a lot of pressure off myself. I wasn’t scrambling. I hit it in the middle of a lot of greens and tried to make putts. I got birdies when I could and just wasn’t making many mistakes.”
All the Final Stage participants are guaranteed a spot on the Korn Ferry Tour, and finishing in the top 40 increases the accessibility to more of the tour’s regular-season tournaments. Siegler is ready for the next step no matter how many starts he gets on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It kind of validates all my hard work,” Siegler said. “It’s something I always wanted to accomplish. From Towson, I’m the first or second person to accomplish this. When you turn pro, you don’t know if you made the right choice. Not a lot of guys from small schools make it. It lets me know I’m going in the right direction.”
Siegler said he feels especially accomplished knowing it was his first attempt at Q-School. Some players take a half-dozen tries to reach the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It’s really hard,” said Siegler’s coach, Jason Barry. “It’s tough to put it into words. The competition is really high. Everybody hits it really far and shoots low scores. What he’s been able to accomplish is pretty amazing.”
Fifteen years ago, it was 1999 West Windsor-Plainsboro High graduate Matt Davidson who qualified for the PGA Tour. Siegler is the second area golfer to reach the Korn Ferry Tour (it was previously called the Web.com Tour when Davidson made it). The top 25 regular-season finishers on the Korn Ferry Tour, plus the top 25 finishers at the three-tournament Korn Ferry Tour Finals earn PGA Tour cards. The top 75 Points leaders from the Korn Ferry Tour regular season reach the finals.
“Any time you see a guy come out of West Windsor, where our climate isn’t very good, it’s great,” Barry said. “Ryan shoots 25-under in the first two stages of Q-School and beat a lot of great players, it’s very encouraging. It just shows if you’re doing the right things in practice day in and day out, and if you’re working on the right things, and if you have a direction, you can accomplish a lot, and it doesn’t really matter where you are.”
Davidson played professionally for 13 years. Now he’s in his second year as the head coach at his alma mater, Furman University.
“I met him once at Furman,” Siegler said. “I have a good friend, (High School South graduate) Anthony Aloi, that followed him at Furman. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Matt and heard how good he was. It’s cool to be mentioned with him. I know he had some good years and he even made the PGA Tour. Hopefully I can duplicate that.”
That goal wasn’t seriously under consideration when Siegler came out of North, and his first year at Towson he finished fifth on the team in scoring average. Barry, who has known Siegler since he was in high school, started working more closely with him after that year.
Siegler’s story is different than that of many aspiring pros, who had a club in their hands from the moment they could walk.
“I came pretty late to the game,” he said. “My parents don’t play. I wasn’t exposed to it young. I got addicted to it eventually. I felt if I could get better at that same pace, I thought I’d have a really good chance. It’s just a belief in yourself.”
Siegler, a left-hander, grew up loving baseball, and he also played basketball and soccer in high school before he started to see a future in golf. He didn’t hit the links until he was a teenager, but he started to excel at North. He won the Mercer County Tournament as a sophomore and his strong play earned him a chance to play at Towson. His climb in college set him on a trajectory that left him open to trying to turn pro.
Siegler returned home to win the New Jersey Men’s Public Links Championship and he qualified for the USGA Public Links Championship. In his senior year at Towson, he twice was runner-up at college tournaments and he carded a 66. His college career ended with him sinking a 40-foot birdie putt in the conference championship. Following graduation, he has returned home to continue to hone his game.
“I really like it in the Princeton area,” Siegler said. “I have a huge advantage being able to play at TPC at Jasna Polana (in Princeton). You get to play at all the TPCs. I love being around there. I love where I grew up. It’s somewhere that I’d like to base myself.”
Coming home allows him to connect with Barry, who is the head coach at Rider University. Siegler is assistant coach at the school.
Siegler is a hit with the Rider players, who admire his skill and work ethic. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to play with guys on a regular basis. It keeps me excited to go to practice. It’s hard to go by yourself to work on stuff.”
Siegler spends part of his time in Florida playing in better weather conditions and working diligently on his game. He and Barry talk regularly and even send video clips to keep Siegler’s swing good.
“He does the little things day in and day out that you need to do to get to that level,” Barry said. “He never wastes any time practicing. There’s always a purpose which is why I think he’s been able to achieve what he has so far.”
Barry points to Siegler’s improvements as proof that his diligence is paying off. He’s developed an advantage.
“He’s a great ball striker,” Barry said. “The driver used to not be a strong suit of his, but he flies driver over 300 yards now. He bullies the par 5s. I think he’s 21-under in 28 par 5s for Q-School. He has three eagles and no bogeys. His driver is his biggest asset. It’s a total weapon. He’s been a good long iron player for a long time.”
Siegler’s driving ability has become good enough to separate him from less accomplished players, and it puts him in a minute population that can make the PGA Tour. It’s now just one step away for Ryan Siegler.
“He’s going to continue to clean things up and get better, but he’s ready,” Barry said. “It’s all about just going out and doing it. I think he has all the tools and they’re sharp. I think he’s ready to play with the best in the world. At the end of every year, you’re looking to see what you can do better. He always needs to get his putting a little bit better. As far as ball striking goes, he’s ready to play on the big scene.”