Michigan Native Brehm Wins Puerto Rico Open

Michigan Native Brehm Wins Puerto Rico Open

In his 68th start on tour, Mount Pleasant native (and Traverse City resident) Ryan Brehm won the 2022 Puerto Rico Open.

The win gives Brehm a PGA TOUR exemption through the 2023-2024 season and an invite to this week’s Players Championship.

It is a major break for the 35-year-old, who had previously never finished better than 11th on the TOUR. In fact, Brehm had lost his PGA TOUR card for the 2021-2022 season; prior to the win, he was ranked 773rd in the world.

Brehm’s start at the Puerto Rico Open was his last chance to get back on the TOUR. He was granted a one-tournament exemption after having to withdraw from the Zurich Classic last year due to COVID.

One chance to continue a career. That’s pressure.

Brehm commented on the pressure after his final round:

It’s can you produce the golf shots when you’re uncomfortable and when the pressure’s on and figure out a process to do that. This week we just tried to refine that process the best we could and learn from the mistakes. This week it just so happened that there were very few mistakes and got a W, but, you know, in previous weeks there have been a lot of mistakes.

So we just — Chels (his wife, who caddied for him) and I just tried to move on from them, learn, put it in the memory bank. I didn’t really pay much attention to my back being up against the wall, I just felt like this week I had everything to win and nothing to lose.

I’m typically, I look calm from the outside but I’m a basket case inside. I
have a different perspective now. My family and I went through a difficult time and I just decided that golf was going to be my profession, I wasn’t going to hang my hat on the results all the time. It didn’t define me as a person and it’s my job. So my job is to come out and be uncomfortable and hit shots and execute. That’s just really what we try to do. It may look calm on the outside, but I’m still a basket case on the inside.

Ryan Brehm after his first PGA TOUR win.
Ryan Brehm

Brehm is the second Mount Pleasant native to win on the PGA TOUR, after Dan Pohl. He is the first Michigan State alum to win on Tour, and the first Michigander to win since Brian Stuard won the 2016 Zurich Classic. (Stuard is a native of Jackson and an Oakland University product.)

Another Michigan State player, James Piot, won the US Amateur in 2021.

In his amateur career, Brehm was the 2003 Michigan High School “Mr. Golf” and the Big 10 Freshman of the year in 2004. In four years, he won five individual NCAA tournament titles and led the Spartans to three Big 10 Championships (2004, 2006 and 2007).

At the 2005 Buick Open, he was the first amateur to make that tournament’s cut since 1966.

Brehm is a three-time Michigan Open Champion. He also has coached at Michigan State.

Brehm turned pro in 2008, missing the cut in his two starts in 2008 and 2009. In 2014 and 2015, Brehm played on the PGA TOUR Canada, where his best finish was a second at the 2015 Great Waterway Classic. In 2016, Brehm played on the Web.Com tour, where he won the WinCo Foods Portland Open. That victory earned a PGA TOUR Card for 2017.

Ultimately, Brehm lost that card but regained it in 2019 with a win at the Korn Ferry Tour LECOM Health Challenge and finishing 13th on the Korn Ferry Regular Season points list.

In 2020-2021, Brehm played in 21 PGA TOUR events, making ten cuts and two top twenty-fives.

That wasn’t going to be enough. The medical exemption gave him one more chance; he chose to play the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate field event to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Brehm explained the situation:

Yeah, I didn’t even realize it, but I got COVID the Sunday night — the
original strain of COVID — and I was going to play in the Zurich. I was going to play with my partner, Joel Dahmen, and who knows, maybe he’ll want to play this year, so I had to pull out and I don’t know, we just went about our business.

Michelle Allan, one of our Wasserman Group people, she said — she takes care of all that stuff for us. She said, hey, you’ve got a minor medical you can use the following year. So we knew we had full Korn Ferry Tour status the beginning of the year, so we planned this week just because it fit nicely in the schedule.

We got a week before this off and then we had a week after this off, so hey, let’s go play Puerto Rico, it fits perfectly. We played pretty well here, almost had a top-10 last year. That’s my minor medical story.

Ryan Brehm, after his Puerto Rico Open victory

With the win, Brehm cashed a winner’s check of $660,000. He does not get a spot in the Masters or US Open because of the Puerto Rico Open’s “alternate field” status.

Perhaps most importantly in the long run, Brehm’s exemption through 2024 qualifies him for vesting in the PGA TOUR pension.

Brehm’s wife, Chelsey was on the bag for him this week. Providentially, she had signed her husband up for The Players before last week’s deadline.

She (Chelsey)knows a lot about the game just from being married to me. Her dad, her dad and I play a lot of golf together. Shout-out to everybody back at Gateway Country Club and LochenHeath. I live in northern Michigan. I have to pick a spot down south to play, so summertime when weather’s good, we’re up in LochenHeath, the golf course is open, it’s awesome, and then we’re at Gateway in the wintertime. But I play a lot of golf with her dad this time of year and I would say she probably was taught the game from him and then learned a lot more when she married a pro golfer.

Ryan Brehm, after his Puerto Rico Open win

It was an impressive win at the Puerto Rico Open. Brehm shot in the 60s all four days. His final round — facing intense pressure — was a bogey-free 67. He won by four shots.

Our goal coming into this week was just to improve every day, every
shot, every round, every hole. We committed to that and, you know, I can say that it worked this week. I think it took a lot of mental discipline, took a lot of conversing. It was great having Chels up there with me caddying. It was a special week. I don’t know, there was just something special about it from the moment we landed.

Ryan Brehm, after his Puerto Rico Open win.
Embed from Getty Images

The key, I’ve grown a lot as a person, I’m not the same as I was back in 2017, my rookie year. Learned to expect a little bit more. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of doors open for me now after getting a victory, there will be some new challenges and situations that I’ll have to navigate, but, you know, we’ll be able to draw on this moving forward, which is going to be powerful, I think.

It might sound like Bill Belichick or Nick Saban here, but honestly, wasn’t
thinking about the impact of my status or anything this week. I think that’s probably the real lesson here. I have people on my team that will do that for me. Really, I just need to put my head down and hit good golf shot after good golf shot. That’s my job and I’m going to trust people around me to do their job and they can take care of all those details for me.

Ryan Brehm, after his first PGA TOUR win at the Puerto Rico Open.

Quotes via PGA TOUR

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