Chris Gotterup found fun again in life-changing Myrtle Beach win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Morten Gotterup said his son “couldn’t breathe.’’

This is what life is like on the lower tier of the PGA Tour for players trying to not only make a name for themselves, but gather enough points in the rankings to qualify for more tournaments.

Today’s PGA Tour, with the arrival and threat of LIV Golf, is more about the “haves’’ and the “have-littles’’ than it’s ever been.

Chris Gotterup of the United States reacts during the final round of the Myrtle Beach Classic at Dunes Golf & Beach Club on May 12, 2024. Getty Images

The “haves’’ get into all the big events, which dish out higher world ranking and FedEx points and that, in turn, paves an easier path for those players to keep getting into the big-boy events.

Chris Gotterup, 24 and in his first full season on the PGA Tour, was firmly lodged in the “have-little’’ category.

Until Sunday.

That’s when the Little Silver, N.J., native who played golf at Rutgers changed his life, capturing the Myrtle Beach Classic, his first victory on the PGA Tour in his 27th career start.

The win not only secured Gotterup his PGA Tour card for two more years after 2024, it earned him an eleventh-hour invite to this week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla.

It’s been a wild 24 hours for Gotterup as he dusted the Myrtle Beach field by six shots in what was a magical week climaxed with his parents, Morten and Kate, and his brother, Patrick, traveling from the Jersey Shore to South Carolina to watch the final round in person.

Chris Gotterup of the United States plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the Myrtle Beach Classic. Getty Images

“It was emotional,’’ Morten Gotterup told The Post over the phone on Monday. “For Kate to be there on Mother’s Day, it’s hard to describe because people don’t see the hard times. They don’t see the sacrifices that were made.

“To have your kid do something that probably wasn’t even in a wild dream 2 ¹/₂ years ago, it leaves you speechless, it really does.’’

The win elevated Gotterup to 69th on the FedExCup points list, which is significant if he can stay inside the top 70 until the end of the season because the top 70 get into the FedExCup Playoffs. And that’s where players have a chance to make life-changing money.

Chris Gotterup of the United States and Charlie Rymer speak after the final round of the Myrtle Beach Classic. Getty Images

Morten Gotterup was emotional over the phone speaking about all the support his son has had in this journey, including his agent, coaches and friends and family from the Jersey Shore.

“I can’t tell you how many texts and emails that I have received,’’ he said, adding that Chris told him he got well over 1,000 texts after the win. “Every one of those people have a little piece of Christopher. It’s almost like he’s a stock and everyone’s bought a share just to make sure that they can participate.

“I’ve always known that he has the talent to compete and maybe even win majors, and then I’m conflicted because the other side of this is, it’s just so surreal that this is happening.’’

Both Gotterup and his father said they believe Austin Eckroat’s first career win at the Cognizant Classic in March was an empowering moment for Gotterup, who’s close friends with Eckroat.

“After watching [Eckroat] win, I was like, ‘All right, I play against this guy all the time, I’ve taken his money, he’s taken my money, why can’t I go win at some point?’ ’’ Gotterup said after his win Sunday.

Gotterup and Eckroat teamed together in the Zurich Classic last month and finished in a tie for 11th and Morten Gotterup said he believes that, too, was a turning point for his son.

“For Christopher, I don’t want to call it a struggle, but it’s been a learning curve,’’ his father said. “Even on the Korn Ferry [last year], he never played great. He played solid, but never loose. I wanted him to play with more joy. It’s very easy to say, but hard to do.

“He had a really good time in Zurich. Christopher got to smile and laugh. It felt different.’’

Gotterup, after his win Sunday, said teaming with his friend that week “definitely just made golf seem more fun again.’’

Chris Gotterup of the United States plays his shot from the 11th tee during the first round of the Myrtle Beach Classic Getty Images

On the eve of the final round in Myrtle Beach, sitting on a four-shot 54-hole lead, Gotterup told reporters: “I practiced all those days at home for a day like [Sunday’s final round]. This is what I play for.’’

Because he played in eight tournaments in 2022 thanks to sponsor’s exemptions based on his elevated status as an amateur, Gotterup is not considered a rookie by the PGA Tour.

“I still feel like a rookie, but I feel like I belong at a high level,’’ he said. “Not that I didn’t before, but now I have some more accolades to prove it.’’

That and the $720,000 winner’s check he secured Sunday.

Chris Gotterup of the United States reacts on the 18th green after winning the final round of the Myrtle Beach Classic. Getty Images

Not that he’s giving it back, of course, but the money is of far less relevance at the moment for Gotterup. It’s the security that comes with the two-year exemption for his PGA Tour card that’s the true prize.

“Now,’’ Morten Gotterup said, “I think he can finally breathe.’’

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