An early birdie barrage by Franklin Corpening, Fort Worth native and former TCU golfer, stirred the crowd in Sunday’s round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
But matters escalated to another level for friends and family members when the Paschal High School graduate and lifelong Colonial member saw his name go up on tournament leaderboards while he played the 12th hole in the final round of his debut event as a PGA Tour competitor.
Corpening, who posted a closing 62 that matched the lowest score of tournament week, said it “felt weird” -- but exciting -- to see his name on a Colonial leaderboard. His father, Joey, saw it through a different set of eyes. And those eyes could not hold back the tears as he and his wife, DeDe, hugged their son following his round.
“I don’t think there’s enough words of joy to describe it,” Joey Corpening said. “I was standing on 12 when they started putting his name up and it just sent me to the clouds. I never imagined anything like that, especially here, could happen. It’s just a dream come true.”
After seeing his son’s name listed among the tournament leaders, Joey Corpening said he initially feared the milestone moment would make Franklin nervous. Instead, Franklin Corpening, 28, continued draining birdie putts and saving pars during a nine-birdie, one-bogey effort that moved him to 8-under par for the tournament and into position – with a top 15 finish today – to earn an invitation to the 2014 Colonial tournament.
But the bigger issue, to Franklin Corpening and the legions of Colonial members who followed him during the back nine, revolved around the potential launching pad that Sunday’s finish could be in the professional career of a player who is a rookie on the 2013 Web.com Tour.
“That kind of busted through my standards pretty good,” Franklin Corpening said, reflecting on his pre-tournament expectations. “I expected to make the cut. That was my No. 1 goal. I just wanted to experience this whole tournament for four rounds. To shoot 62, that was just so much fun ... It’s a dream come true, really, for my first year out. That was cool.”
It also proved to be an eye-opener for a player who finished third in last week’s Web.com event, his best career placement on the developmental circuit.
“I figured out last week I belong on the Web.com Tour. And today, I figured out I belong out there,” Corpening said.
Where Corpening, who teed off at 8:02 a.m., winds up on the final leaderboard remains to be seen. But his collection of nine birdies, which included a chip-in at No. 4 and eight birdie putts ranging from 4- to 38-feet, will long be remembered by Colonial fans.
So will his spectacular par save at No. 18, when Corpening drove into the deep left rough and had to aim his approach shot over the giant scoreboard near the 18th green. He did not emerge with birdie, as Phil Mickelson did from a similar area on the 72nd hole in 2008, but he pulled off a memorable par after taking dead aim at a heroic birdie.
“The scoreboard was definitely in my way. It wasn’t in my line of sight of the pin, so I didn’t get relief,” Corpening said. “I had a little, bitty window and I told my caddie, ‘I didn’t come here to just chip out in the fairway.’ So I tried to hit a shot, didn’t pull it off and just got super, super lucky. It went through the tree and ended up down there by the bunker.”
A chip shot to 16 feet above the hole, followed by a downhill par putt, completed his memorable final round to a memorable Colonial debut.
“He’s making our champions look really smart,” said Colonial tournament chairman Bobby Patton, reflecting on Corpening’s status as a Champions’ Choice invitee for the 2013 event. “It’s great … You have wonderful feelings and you’re happy for Franklin on how he started his professional career (on the PGA Tour). On a personal level, and as a father, I can’t imagine how proud and excited it made Joey. And in the uncle category, Scott Corpening has got to be one of the proudest uncles in America. The whole family has been important to this tournament for decades. And the membership as a whole couldn’t be more pleased to have one of our members make such a good showing.”
_ Jimmy Burch