Peter Creighton has known Ben Reichert since Ben was 5 years old, getting his start in golf. Last weekend, after Reichert became the first Western New Yorker in 56 years to win the Porter Cup, Creighton sent him a congratulatory text.
Reichert plans to turn pro after winning one of golf’s most prestigious amateur events. He has asked Creighton for advice from time to time, seeking tips on how to survive in the difficult world of pro golf, where Peter has labored for nearly a decade.
“Essentially, I told him if you’re going to do it, do it the right way and go all-in,” Creighton said. “Pro golf is different. It’s all on you. Ben is still young. Obviously, he has all the talent in the world. It’s a matter of whether he can figure out the next step.”
Creighton, an Amherst native and Canisius High graduate, can attest to that. He has been grinding in the minor-league pro golf circuit since graduating from Florida Southern eight years ago. He has played all over the world, including the PGA’s Latin America and China tours and various spots in-between.
For the past two years, Creighton has been laboring to get onto the Korn Ferry Tour, the top PGA developmental circuit (think Triple-A). The Korn Ferry, previously known as the Nike and Nationwide, among others, had an event at Peek ’n Peek before the sponsorship went away.
It has been an exhilarating, sometimes discouraging quest. In 2019, Creighton made the final round of Korn Ferry qualifying school but fell short. The pandemic shut down things for a time. Last summer, he failed to make it through any Monday qualifiers for Korn Ferry events — despite shooting 22-under par over one 72-hole stretch over four qualifiers.
He’s kept at it. In May, Creighton got a special invitation to the Korn Ferry event in Kansas City and missed the cut. Finally, last Monday, he made it through an actual qualifier for the first time. He shot an 8-under par 63. He shot 28 on the front nine and was a staggering 7-under par through the first seven holes.
“I had a birdie to get to 8-under on 11 and I was like ‘Whoa, I haven’t been here in some time,” he recalled.
Creighton stumbled a bit down the stretch, three-putting a couple of par-5s. But he finished second to earn a spot in the Price Cutter Championship at Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Missouri. And who wound up in his threesome for the first two rounds of the tournament?
Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and celebrated CBS color analyst on NFL broadcasts.
Not to minimize the golf thing, but Creighton does come from Buffalo. The first question anyone would ask is, ‘What did Romo say about the Bills?’
“He’s very intense,” Creighton said. “So if he started talking about football, he’d struggle in focusing on golf. So he really didn’t talk about football a lot.
“We talked briefly about the Bills. I didn’t know if he was going to be in Buffalo for games this year. But he said, ‘I enjoy going to those games a lot. I like that team and I like Josh Allen. He’s a good kid. He’s made the jumps he needed to make.’”
Romo told Creighton that Allen had reached out to him for advice on how to improve as a quarterback — not unlike Reichert reaching out to Peter over the years, or Creighton soaking up advice from legends Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh when he played them in one-on-one matches at TPC Sawgrass during the pandemic.
Creighton shot 70-73 in Springfield and missed the cut. Romo went 72-81, finishing last among players who completed two rounds. He attracted a good following, which was the objective when the tournament organizers invited him.
But Romo was there to compete, not to be some token attraction. Creighton said Romo was gracious with the fans. He signed memorabilia and posed for pictures, but he was mainly focused on his golf game.
“He gets it,” Creighton said. “He also understands that we’re trying to do a job. So he’s very respectful of that, too. He understands the grind of golf and how hard it is. He tries to blend in, but the problem is, everybody knows who Tony Romo is.
“He can play. He was out there to compete. He told me he has the Texas state open next week. Obviously, he’s fantastic calling football games. But that same passion he has for calling games he takes to golf. I respect the hell out of him for getting out there and trying to do something that not many people are capable of, or willing to put themselves out there.
“He was great,” Peter said. “I’d play with the guy any day.”
For Creighton, it was on to the next challenge. This week, he’s competing in West Lafayette, Ind., at the Birck Boilermaker Classic. It’s an event on the Forme Tour, a U.S.-based alternative to the Canadian Tour that was necessitated by border closings and quarantines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creighton, who qualified for the Boilermaker Classic at a qualifier last month in Georgia, shot 69 in Wednesday’s opening round. That put him in a tie for 10th place midway through the opening 18 holes of the four-round event on the Purdue University campus.
The golf grind continues. He keeps getting better. As he told Ben Reichert, it’s all about figuring out the next step. For Creighton, the next big step comes in six weeks, when he begins the first stage of the Qualifying Tournament for the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour.
“That’s what I’m getting ready for, try to get my game ready to go play in Q school,” he said. “It’s always a stressful time of year. But once you get going, you kind of get in the flow and try to play well. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
Creighton has to survive the first stage, then the second, as he did in 2019. The third and final stage is from Nov. 4-7 at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga. A spot on the Korn Ferry Tour can be an avenue to the PGA Tour, as it has been for so many pros over the years.
He said he has the same drive he had two years ago, the same enthusiasm for the game. He laughs when asked if it’s still fun. Golf is always fun when you play well, and a torture when you’re struggling. That’s true for the top guys in the world and the guys in the C class at the Brighton club championship in Tonawanda.
Shooting 28 over nine holes and getting over the hump in a Korn Ferry qualifier was good for his confidence. But this is a long process. No single experience makes you a successful professional.
Creighton had no answer for where he’ll be a year from now, or how long he’ll keep at it. It’s enough to believe he’s on the road to somewhere. That’s what Ben Reichert will find out, that the journey can be long and difficult. You need to be resolute and confident that you’re on the right path, even when golf laughs at you and spits in your face.
“It was great to get in a (Korn Ferry) event,” he said from Indiana, “and I learned a lot from it. But I’m here now and I’ve got another opportunity this week. You’ve got to stay where you’re at. The past is something you can draw from and learn from.
“It’s all those experiences that when you keep moving forward, you look back and try to draw on them, so the next time you’re in that situation, you handle it. I definitely handled this better than the previous Korn Ferry I played in. The more you get in those arenas, the more comfortable you get.”
And the more humble.
“Exactly,” Creighton said. “The second you think you’ve got it, you don’t. The second you think, ‘I can’t miss’, tomorrow comes and you don’t know if you can find it. That’s the beauty of it.”