Scott Langley had a heck of an introduction to the big leagues. Not only did the lefty play his first game as a member of the PGA Tour on Thursday, but he fired a flawless opening-round 8-under 62 Friday to take an early one-shot lead over a field that includes last week’s winner Dustin Johnson, U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson, and a slew of other decorated tour veterans.
Langley, the first graduate of The First Tee program to earn a tour card, posted six birdies and an eagle to steal the show from playing partner and fellow rookie Russell Henley, who will start Friday’s second round a shot back.
Langley heads up a class of 23 tour first-timers playing in the first full-field event of the 2013 season. He’s finished tied for low amateur at a U.S. Open (2010) and won on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur and twice last year as a pro. An accomplishment he may be proudest of, however, is his standing as the first alumnus of The First Tee program to earn a tour card.
“It's an honor to represent them, and I think it's really cool that the First Tee is getting a presence out on tour,” Langley told reporters Wednesday. “It's a great organization, and it taught me a lot when I was younger.”
A program dedicated to teaching juniors core values through golf since its inception in 1997, The First Tee is a project of the PGA and LPGA Tours, the PGA of America, and the USGA, among other backers. More than 6.5 young people have participated in the activities of the organization, which boasts 10,000 active volunteers, 5,100 elementary schools, and offerings in all 50 states plus four international locations.
Langley, a University of Illinois All-American golfer, finished tied for 17th at Q-school. Last year at this time, he and good pal Henley were grinding it out on the Hooter’s Tour and he could barely contain his excitement to be playing in paradise.
"He had just missed the cut, I barely made the cut, we were on the range trying to help each other find it," Langley said. "We were just walking up 16. You could see the ocean behind, PGA Tour signs everywhere. We looked at each other and realized this is pretty cool, to look back one year ago and to know that we weren't here. We were in a far different place."
Langley, who credited Henley and a couple of other close friends with helping him through some lean times, looks up to Rickie Fowler as something of a mentor. Fowler took Langley under his wing last year and even provided housing for him and two other newbies in the field this week, Morgan Hoffman, and Cameron Tringale.
“Rickie was great. Kid has a heart of gold,” said the youngster about the popular golfer one year his senior. “He became one of my closest friends living in Jupiter, kind of going through a tough time personally and he really helped me out with staying at his house.
“Morgan Hoffman and Cam Tringale and Rickie are some of my closest friends to this day, and in large part to me living there with those guys,” Langley said. “Last year, I can really point to some areas in my golf game that were really improved just by being around Rickie and being around Cam and Morgan. They’re such competitors, and there’s so much good confidence, the right kind of confidence, and I really fed off that living in the house."
Langley may have been wide-eyed in his professional debut, but the 23-year-old exhibited wisdom beyond his years when he observed that he was far from hoisting the hardware.
"I'm a young guy, but I'm old enough to know that we have a lot of golf left,” he said. “We've barely started, and I'm excited about the next few days.”