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Chiarella looks to continue climb up Korn Ferry ranks

Seabury Hall grad coming off career-best finish on PGA Tour’s feeder circuit

Alex Chiarella, shown during the Mackenzie Tour Players Cup in August 2018, finished tied for fourth place at the Evans Scholars Invitational in Westchester, Ill., on Sunday. It was the Seabury Hall graduate’s best finish in a Korn Ferry Tour event. Mackenzie Tour / Chuck Russell photo

Alex Chiarella is learning the ropes of life on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The 26-year-old Seabury Hall graduate showed as much last week at the Evans Scholars Invitational tournament in Illinois when he tied for fourth at 14-under-par 274.

He accentuated his career-best finish on the Korn Ferry Tour — the feeder circuit to the PGA Tour — with birdies on the final two holes for a final-round 67 Sunday.

“It feels great, it feels rewarding,” Chiarella, who has made just five cuts in 15 Korn Ferry events, said Tuesday via phone. “Lately I’ve been getting off to good starts in tournaments and finishing rounds and tournaments as a whole poorly, so this is nice to finish a tournament and finish all my rounds strong and on a good note.”

The result vaulted him from 95th to 67th on the Korn Ferry points list in the current two-year season that will award 25 PGA Tour cards to the top of the points list next fall. The top 75 players on the Korn Ferry list will play with displaced PGA Tour members for 25 more cards to the big leagues in the Korn Ferry finals.

“The thing about this tour is that you can’t show up without your ‘A’ game and expect to contend or even make the cut,” Chiarella said. “These guys are just too good, so you have to be on your game, especially on your mental game for all 72 holes, and this was probably my best overall mental tournament that I’ve played in recent history.”

He started poorly in three of his four rounds in Illinois before finishing strong each time, something that has been missing.

“I was 3-over par in the first couple holes of three out of my four rounds,” he said. “And especially that final round when I was 3 over through four (holes) — I was probably in 35th place and really needed something special to happen. Then I played the remaining 14 holes 8 under, so that gave me a lot of confidence.”

He is off this week before finishing the 2020 slate with three tournaments in a row.

“I’d love to climb a little bit more before the end of this year, but, man, it’s been hard to climb the ranks,” he said. “There’s such a big gap between the guys at the top and then the guys where I was, around 100th. You really need to rally off some top-fives, top-10s to really climb the ranks.

“Hopefully I can keep it rolling and have a good end to this year and just know that I’m going into next year with some momentum and work on the things that I need to improve on during this offseason.”

The current two-year season for the Korn Ferry Tour was necessitated by several events being wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chiarella took three months off from golf at the beginning of the shutdown and it has caused issues with his left arm — he has tendinitis in his wrist and bicep tendonosis that affects the labrum in his shoulder, although he says both are getting better.

“Most importantly for me is being 100 percent healthy for the start of next year — I’ve dealt with a wrist injury and a shoulder injury through this entire (restart) and I’d like to get completely healthy and in shape so I can play a full season next year and really give it a run to try to make it to the PGA Tour,” he said. “I feel above 90 percent (right now). This left shoulder has really been bugging me since the restart. I think a lot of it had to do with taking two to three months off of tournament golf.”

Chiarella knows he is carrying the flag for Maui golf professionals, reaching a point few from the Valley Isle ever have. He rose from 701st on the Official World Golf Ranking to 540th with last week’s result.

“I just think it’s an honor,” Chiarella said. “I’m grateful to be put in the position where I can pursue my dream and this professional golf career path, which not many people can do. So, I give a lot of thanks to my parents, and family and friends who have supported me. It’s cool to represent Hawaii and especially represent Maui because it’s hard to make it on any professional level.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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