SAVANNAH, Ga. – On the phone with his mother on Saturday night, Charles Wang was basically in tears. One of the most important weeks of his career to date, and he was on the verge of calling it quits midway through the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School.
Two weeks prior, the 25-year-old Wang had suffered a severe cut on his left thumb after tripping up a set of stairs.
“I told her, ‘I might withdraw, it’s too much pain and I can’t handle this,’” said Wang, who had persevered up to that point, gutting out rounds of 72-73 with little warmup. “She wanted me to play, and if I didn’t play well, then perhaps withdraw.”
Well, Wang isn’t throwing in the towel now.
With his injured thumb heavily wrapped, Wang birdied five of his first eight holes Saturday at The Landings Club’s Marshwood Course. He didn’t card a bogey either, finishing with a third-round, 6-under 65 to vault him into the conversation for guaranteed starts.
The top 40 and ties after Monday’s final round receive spots in the first eight events next season on the Korn Ferry Tour. The top 10 and ties get into the first 12 tournaments, and the medalist is fully exempt. Wang is T-28 at 3 under, right inside the top-40 bubble and four strokes outside the top 10.
Some other notables around the bubble: John Augenstein, Wilson Furr and Logan McAllister are part of the logjam at 3 under; Willie Mack III and Trent Phillips are among those at 2 under; and the 1-under group includes Cole Hammer.
“I had no expectations going out there,” Wang said. “I told myself if I don’t finish dead last, I’ll be happy. … Sometimes you have to just give yourself a chance, just put yourself out there. Apparently today I had something that I didn’t even know I had.”
Wang’s injury didn’t require stitches, though doctors did glue the cut closed. Wang was prescribed an antibiotic to prevent infection and Advil for the pain, plus plenty of rest. The latter, of course, wasn’t an option this week.
To minimize the pressure on the wound, Wang has been hitting only two full shots on the range prior to his rounds, one driver and one 2-iron, as well as a handful of 30% chips with his 7-iron. He's also weakened his grip.
When he gets out on the course, the pain subsides, but not much. Every time he hits a shot, whether it’s a drive or a chip, Wang describes the level at about a 6 out of 10. On Friday, it was even higher, as Wang tried a more cushioned tape that lost its stick and started rubbing around the cut. He leaned on his short game to salvage a 2-over score and went back to regular athletic tape on Saturday.
“Just wrapped it tight the whole way,” Wang added.
Thumbs up for Charles Wang! 👍🏻
Wang gashed his thumb last week after making it through Second Stage. He only planned on hitting one shot at Final Stage but has persevered into R2. pic.twitter.com/Q7RMi6jpe6
— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) November 5, 2022
This is Wang’s second time at final stage. He first played as an 18-year-old in 2015, the year he turned pro, and ended up tying for 21st to secure eight guaranteed starts.
“I was fearless,” Wang recalls. “I got through Q-School, and I didn’t even know what Q-School was. … But I wasn’t ready back then.”
Wang spent just a year at Northwestern – “just a little longer” than Matt Fitzpatrick, he jokes (Fitzpatrick played for only a semester) – before jumping to the professional ranks. In his rookie KFT season, he made just two cuts in six events, netting just $3,136 and struggling to get into fields. He lost his card and has since played just three events on the KFT, more recently spending three of the past four seasons on PGA Tour Canada.
Now, a full-time return to the KFT is within his grasp.
In Wang’s case, it’ll just be physically tougher to grab some of those coveted guaranteed starts.