Driven to Pursue Different Path Than Classmates, PU Golf Alum Harmeling Aiming to Make PGA Tour
SPOILS OF VICTORY: Former Princeton University men’s golf standout Evan Harmeling displays the trophy he earned for winning the Savannah Golf Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour last October. Harmeling ’12 is currently ranked 41st on the Korn Ferry money list with earnings of $146,374 as he looks to crack the top 25 and earn a spot on the PGA Tour next year. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
While many of his Princeton University classmates went into business, law, or medicine, Evan Harmeling was driven to pursue a different career path.
After an up-and-down career with the Princeton University men’s golf program, Harmeling ’12 decided to take a shot at the pro game.
“The interesting thing about golf is that it is all about what you shoot,” said Harmeling.
“There is no draft, there is no you have a lot of potential so we are going to take a shot on you and give you a chance. Everyone, except for the very few guys at the top of the college game who are getting some match sponsor exemptions, is starting from scratch. From that standpoint, college careers are not as important in terms of establishing your professional career.”
Over the last eight years, Harmeling, now 32, has scratched and clawed his way up to the Korn Ferry Tour, the development circuit that is one step below the PGA Tour.
Having won the Savannah Golf Championship last October, Harmeling is looking to work his way into the top 25 of the Korn Ferry money list and thereby earn PGA Tour status for next season. He currently ranks 41st on the Korn Ferry money list with earnings of $146,374.
Harmeling’s journey to the pro ranks began nearly 30 years ago, getting into the game at age 2 when his dad cut down some clubs for him.
As a grade schooler, Harmeling made his debut into competitive golf and enjoyed it right away.
“I played my first tournament when I was 10 or 11,” recalled Harmeling.
“It was on a par 3 course, Firefly, in Rhode Island. I remember that day, that first tournament, it is exciting. It is a different animal when you get a scorecard and you have got to post a score next to your name.”
Going to Phillips Academy for high school, Harmeling, a native of North Reading, Mass., started taking the game more seriously. He was named the Massachusetts Golf Association Junior Golfer of the Year in 2005 and was part of a twosome that won the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship in 2007. After graduating from Phillips, where he also played squash, Harmeling qualified for the 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship.
Turning his attention to college and playing at that level, Harmeling found a home in Princeton.
“I went and visited Princeton and loved it, I loved the campus,” said Harmeling, who was also looking at Virginia and Northwestern in his recruiting process.
“I met coach [Will] Green, he is great. I have a great relationship with him. Springdale is sweet, it is a fun course to play. Having Jasna nearby as well is great.”
In reflecting on his Tiger career, Harmeling acknowledged that he struggled to balance schoolwork with his golf.
“In terms of golf, keeping up with these classes took a little away from my golf,” said Harmeling, who took a year off from school in 2008-09.
“I wasn’t as organized as I could have been. I had to manage my priorities.”
On the course for the Tigers, Harmeling had mixed results, highlighted by finishing sixth at the 2012 Ivy League Championships as a senior, earning second-team All-Ivy honors.
“I definitely didn’t play my best golf at school,” said Harmeling.
“I grew up playing up north and then went to Princeton. Right when I got down to Florida and started playing on Bermuda greens, I immediately felt more at home. My short game got better, playing on Bermuda grass.”
Turning pro after graduating from Princeton, Harmeling started grinding his way up the ladder.
“In my first year, I played a lot of Monday qualifiers and I played the E Golf tour in the Carolinas,” said Harmeling.
“It is a mini tour where everyone throws in $1,000 for a tournament each week and you go play for that money essentially. It is organized gambling. I went to Q School that year.”
By 2013, Harmeling was playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and two years later he also joined the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
“The whole thing was playing in the biggest tournaments I could play in so I could get to the highest level I could get to,” explained Harmeling, who made his Korn Ferry debut in 2017.
“I didn’t get through Q school until 2016. For ’12, ’13, ’14, and ’15, I didn’t get through to the final stage that gets you on the Korn Ferry tour level. I went to go play in Canada and then down in Latin America; that was the next best thing I could do anywhere in the western hemisphere and was the feeder into the Korn Ferry tour.”
As he endured the ups and downs of pro circuit, Harmeling didn’t get discouraged.
“There were material improvements each year and that was really the benchmark to keep playing,” said Harmeling.
A key factor in Harmeling’s improvement has been coming under the tutelage of noted golf teacher Adam Schriber.
“I have been working seven years with Adam,” said the 6’4, 190-pound Harmeling.
“He is great, he is really an expert in biomechanics. He knows the golf swing like the back of his hand.”
A great moment for Harmeling came when he won the 2019 BMW Jamaica Classic on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
“That was awesome, everything kind of came together,” said Harmeling, who led the tournament after two rounds but then had to birdie the final hole of the event to edge Augusto Nunez by one stroke.
“I like getting into those situations where you are the guy to beat and have the lead going into the final round or the lead after the second round. That was fun.”
Last October, Harmeling came through in another big situation, winning the Savannah Golf Championship, tying with Kevin Dougherty at -21 after 72 holes and then prevailing on the first playoff hole.
“That was sweet, the back nine was a two-man race,” said Harmeling, who matched the tournament scoring record for 72 holes with his 21-under 267.
“It was fun, it was kind of that match play situation. It means a lot of perform well under pressure with everything that I work on and to see the fruits of that. It wasn’t like that catapulted me into the top 25 to be in the position to be on the PGA tour so there is still work to be done.”
With the Korn Ferry season in full swing, Harmeling is working hard between tournaments to hone his game.
“I work out every day that I am home,” said Harmeling, who is currently based in Atlantic Beach, Fla., where he lives with his wife and their infant daughter.
“I have these drills I have to complete putting, it depends on how long it takes. Now I have occasional days where I will hit balls for three or four hours. That is lately when I have been trying to zero in on things. When I am in rhythm, I don’t like to hit a ton of balls so I can preserve my wrist and my body for a long season.”
Although his quest for the PGA card has been grueling, Harmeling is more than happy with his career choice.
“I just need to keep doing what I am doing, going through my routine, and doing my drills,” said Harmeling, whose scoring average is 70.98 this season with his driving distance coming in at 303.6 yards.
“I believe in the stuff that I am doing with my swing, my game, and my preparation. It is executing that and then I am going to be in good shape. Adam is over at TPC Sawgrass and we have been doing some good work. Golf has been great to me, the traveling around, the places I have gone. It is awesome.”