Manav Shah has been knocking on the door for some time. By the same token, he’s far from satisfied.
The Centennial graduate will play in his first career PGA tournament this week when he takes the course at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois. Shah received an invitation to the 156-player field when he finished top-four at Monday's qualifying event at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Illinois.
“Solid, high, top-five finish. Or winning. That’s what we want,” Shah said of expectations entering Thursday’s opening round. “One hole at a time.”
Shah has taken a different route this summer in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of professional golf. After competing on the Canadian Tour the past two years, the 26-year-old is essentially playing independently in 2018 — while he didn't return to the Canadian Tour, he's also seeking status on the PGA Tour or the Web.com Tour.
To track that down Shah has been in Bakersfield, taking the course in local tournaments and state opens to stay sharp. Then he competes in Monday qualifiers with hopes of receiving berths to PGA events.
Success at PGA tournaments could bring him money, exposure and further opportunities down the road.
Two weeks ago Shah narrowly missed qualifying for the PGA’s Barracuda Championship after finishing second in the Reno Open (the winner, AJ McInerney, received the lone PGA berth from that particular tournament).
Still, Shah felt good about his performance. It was the second time this summer he played exceptionally well to close out a tournament, he said. He stepped up his game when the stakes were highest, and played bogey-free golf on the final 18 holes, he added.
That performance carried over to Monday’s John Deere qualifier, when Shah shot a 6-under 66 to finish one stroke better than Andrew Loupe for fourth overall — the top-four on the leaderboard qualified for this weekend’s PGA competition.
That accomplishment alone is impressive.
For starters, Shah enters the qualifying competitions essentially gambling on himself — they’re pay-to-play events, with the payoff equating to a spot in a PGA tournament.
This week’s qualifier took place in the midwest, far from Shah’s home turf. He said the only familiarity he had with the course was Sunday's practice round, where he got a feel for things and developed a gameplan.
Shah, however, is a confident golfer possessing mental toughness and little self doubt. Frankly, he wouldn't be at this point without it.
“My whole attitude about where I stand in this game is pretty optimistic. I know that I belong out here on the PGA Tour,” Shah said. “These guys are good. But if I stick to my game, I know I can compete out here at the highest level with the best players in the world.”
Shah’s approach this summer — as essentially a barnstormer picking his spots at PGA qualifiers — is a tough one to take, he said. There are no financial guarantees, and few safety nets in place.
But that confidence, coupled with the opportunity to potentially compete in PGA events, makes it worthwhile.
Shah added the support received from family, friends and coaches have helped tremendously along the way.
“It's the biggest tournament I've ever played, but in order for me to be successful I have to treat it like any other week and shoot the best number I can," he said. "I've been training my entire life to face a moment like this. I think I'll be ready."