Standing on the 17th tee with a 7-iron in his hands, Matt Organisak wanted to finish Stage II of Korn Ferry Q-School strong. The birdies he had hoped for on the back nine had not arrived. Seven straight pars had him feeling like his chances to reach Korn Ferry Finals were all but gone. To reach his target of 8-under par meant he’d need a birdie and an eagle on the closing two holes.
“I’ve realized in the last year that the mental work I do off the course is more important than the physical work I do on the golf course," Organisak said in a phone interview after Stage II was completed.
He may be young, but he understands what it takes to win events and hit important shots. Just 15 months ago, Organisak was picking his ball out of the cup on Kittansett’s 18th green, having won the Massachusetts State Amateur. In the summer of 2019, before his senior year at Emory, he laid out a plan to turn pro. The pandemic shortened his senior year but didn't affect his resolve. He continued to sharpen his game, and the Mass Am victory was a "good start" to the professional journey Organisak was about to embark on.
The night before his final round of Stage II qualifying Organisak was sitting in 35th place at 2-under par after a lackluster 72. The top 20 and ties would earn a berth into Korn Ferry Finals. So he did some of that all-important mental work.
“I convinced myself that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was fighting uphill and chasing a spot,” he said.
Considering Organisak's journey to Stage II, fighting uphill had become a strength. In pre-qualifying at Bermuda Run in North Carolina, he made the cut on the number, albeit with a bogey-double, bogey finish. In Stage I qualifying, he played better and had two shots to spare to advance to Stage II.
The uphill fight would continue; Organisak set his Stage II target score at 8-under par, which would require him to fire a 66. The personal pep-talk led to five birdies on the opening nine holes, including three-straight on holes Nos. 7-9 for a 33 - halfway to that 66 target. Feeling good about his ball-striking, Organisak didn’t need to convince himself that birdies were going to keep coming; he just needed to maintain a clean card on the back nine and keep hitting good shots.
After playing the next seven holes without a birdie, the doubts crept in.
“I felt like I had run out of holes," he said. “But you learn to keep hope. Things happen in junior golf, high school golf, college golf. You just never know.”
As Organisak recalled that final round, he credited his caddie and college friend Cory Levine for keeping him loose and focused.
“He doesn’t know a lot about golf, but as a soccer player, he gets the mental aspect of competing.”
And now back to those last two holes at Stage II, where Organisak needed some magic to achieve his target score. First, he drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th. Next, he nailed his 9-iron approach on the 18th to 7-feet. He knew the putt would be big, but he didn't know how big. A birdie would get him to 7-under, one-shot short of his goal, but maybe good enough. A little bit of hope kept him steady. But when he rolled the putt in and signed his card, the Massachusetts native said he still had a “queasy feeling - like really unsure.”
After teeing off in the early wave, he was left with an ocean of time before the final scores would roll in. But the nice part about Stage II is there is no playoff in the event of a 20th place logjam. The top-20 and ties advance. So Organisak decided to head home to Atlanta, a three-and-a-half hour drive of torment.
“I was driving, and Cory was checking scores. We tried to wait 20-minutes between checking so scores would actually be different," he recalled.
The scores started to look more and more promising, and about halfway home, driving through Alabama, Organisak's birdie-birdie finish proved to be enough to clinch a spot in the Korn Ferry Finals. The player just one year removed from his winning his state amateur had status on a pro tour.
The turnaround from State Amateur champ in 2020 to Korn Kerry Finals in 2021 came quickly.
After turning pro in January Organisak decided he would spend his time practicing instead of grinding in events. He spent his winter in Florida and Atlanta, entering a handful of one-day tournaments and some Minor League Golf events before heading back to Boston for the summer. There he honed his game at the course he grew up playing: Nashawtuc Country Club, and played in the Mass and Providence Opens without worrying too much about results.
Organisak admitted he was a good putter and drove the ball well. His hard work at Emory, both on the course and in the gym, helped those two aspects of the game improve quickly. However, the wake-up call came in his Mackenzie Tour Q-School in February. After making a handful of birdies in round one and feeling good, the well dried up for Organisak during the final 54-holes.
“I realized I've got to make birdies as a pro," said Organisak. "That is if I want to keep hanging out with them."
Mission accomplished. And AmateurGolf.com watches proudly as a golfer that has competed in our partner events like The Dogwood heads to Korn Ferry Finals in Savannah with experience to draw from, a strong mental game, and the physical tools to compete.