REX Hospital Open golfers visit UNC REX Cancer Center
You always remember your first paycheck.
For Stephen Franken, it came on Sunday after he finished 58th in the Canada Life Open in Vancouver.
“It wasn’t big but I made the cut,” Franken said.
Franken’s first earnings, $605 Canadian or about $450 U.S., in his first pro start are just the beginning of what he hopes to be a long pro career. His second pro start, and first on the Web.com Tour, will be closer to home. He grew up in Raleigh, went to high school at Millbrook and then was an All-ACC and All-American golfer for N.C. State.
He earned a spot in the Rex Hospital Open, which starts on Thursday at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, with a collegiate tournament win in Cary in April.
Franken’s pro career got off to a much better start than his collegiate career. Franken walked off the 15th hole of his second tournament for the Wolfpack.
“I put too much pressure on myself and I wasn’t handling it,” Franken said.
He thought that the transition from high school to college was going to be easier since he didn’t leave his hometown.
“I was a wreck the first two, three months,” Franken said.
This is where you figure it took Franken a year, or two, to figure out college golf. Nope. Franken is a fast-learner. He led the Wolfpack, as a freshman, in stroke average.
As a junior, he was the ACC player and the ACC scholar-athlete of the year (for all sports) in 2018. He had 22 top-10 finishes and 35 top-20 finishes in his N.C. State career. He also completed his finance degree with a 3.55 grade point average and graduated this month.
He finished his career, with a 17th-place finish in the NCAA regionals in Stanford, Calif. on May 15. He was the first player in school history to lead the team in scoring all four seasons. His career stroke average (71.06 in 137 rounds) is the best in school history. At N.C. State, with Tim Clark, Matt Hill and handful of All-Americans and pros in its history, that covers a lot of ground.
“That hasn’t even really sunk in yet,” Franken said of the scoring average record. “It kind of feels like I didn’t do it.”
Franken said he was always just focused on the next shot and controlling what he can control rather than focused on his individual accomplishments. That will change some with the transition to the pro game. Instead of a team, Franken only has to worry about himself.
“In a way, I’m starting from scratch again,” Franken said.
He already has a spot on the PGA Tour Canada for the rest of the summer. He finished fourth at Q school event in Courtenay, British Columbia on May 3, which qualified him for the first six events.
By making the cut at the Canada Life Open, he punched his ticket for the rest of the summer. A top-25 finish at the Rex would give him a chance to play more Web.com Tour events.
It helps that he’s playing on a course he’s familiar and in front of a friendly Raleigh crowd.
“This is a great opportunity for me to play up and test my game and my emotions,” Franken said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Rex Hospital Open
When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation