by Garrett Johnston
After 49 starts on the PGA Tour and a long journey on the Web.com Tour, Andrew Putnam finally broke through for his first PGA Tour win last week at the Barracuda Championship in Reno.
The 29-year-old Tacoma native won the Stableford scoring event at Montreux Golf & Country Club, clinching the win after leading after 54 holes.
The emotional win came in front of his wife, parents, and a close friend who flew in Saturday night. The win marked his fourth top-10 finish this year on tour.
And the best prize from his first win? He earned a spot in this week’s PGA Championship, being held at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.
Until this week, the former Pacific Coast Amateur champion (2010) had only played in one other professional major, the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Never in a PGA Championship, British Open, or Masters.
But Putnam has a solution for getting into some of those majors.
The 29-year-old says the big goal this year has been “to get to the FedEx championship,” the year-end 30-man Tour Championship at famed East Lake.
Doing so this year would automatically catapult him into the 2019 Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open.
But all in all, getting your first tour win is the biggest celebration.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Putnam’s friend and fellow Tour pro Kevin Streelman said. “You just can’t wait to share the joy with friends over dinner or beer. It really just tells you that you belong out here on the tour, and I’m so happy for Andrew.”
Streelman said with a laugh that he also whopped Putnam at a game of pickleball the week before. Guess you can’t win at every sport.
Renowned instructor Michael Breed liked what he saw from Putnam’s first win.
“For Andrew to come through and get his first win is such a big accomplishment and must really solidify how he competes at this level.”
Veteran Ryan Armour, who finally broke through for his own first win at age 41 last year, empathizes with Putnam on how much his life and schedule will change with the first tour win.
“Andrew now gets to play when he wants instead of being told he is in a field,” Armour said. “He’s probably thinking what I thought after my first win: ‘Oh my gosh, I have job security now for two years’.”
Australian star and 2013 Masters champ Adam Scott understands the mountain Putnam just summited with his first win.
“To win for the first time is a huge breakthrough, it doesn’t matter when it is because the competition is so deep out there,” Scott said.
Scott actually made one of his first professional starts in Reno in 2000 and has gone on to tally 13 PGA Tour wins to date.
“Good for Andrew, because it will be a huge impact on his season, going to the Tournament of Champions (Maui) and all of the other perks are really a big deal.”
Putnam and his family have been vacationing in Maui for years now in the winter, so adding the first event of the calendar year, a winners-only start, figures to be a fun change for him.
Yes, Putnam’s first win will be a game-changer for him.
Garrett Johnston is a sports writer and video producer. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett.