Callum Tarren was one shot away from a possible golden ticket to the Masters.
But the 32-year-old regards his tie for second at the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic on Sunday as growing proof of his increasing confidence on golf’s biggest circuit.
And the Englishman is ready to push on even further in the new year.
“I’m still over the moon to end 2022 like that. It was a great way to cap off a very successful season,” he said.
A maiden victory in Georgia would have been enough for Tarren to gain a place at Augusta in April – but a couple of late birdies from Canada’s Adam Svensson denied him.
But in another sense, it was mission accomplished as the Darlington man becomes more established in the game’s higher echelons.
‘Bigger and better than I expected’
Tarren had finished 119th in his debut season on the PGA Tour, which was enough to keep his Tour card. But his tie for second has lifted him to 25th on the current FedEx Cup points list – enough to get him in all the tour’s elevated events in 2023.
In simple terms, that means teeing up in the tournaments with the biggest money (purses of $20 million, about £16,5m) against the biggest names – think world number one Rory McIlroy, Spain’s Jon Rahm and leading Americans like Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler.
While having been outside the world’s top 500 as recently as March, his world ranking has climbed to 165th, with a good chance to improve further in the new year.
“This time last year, I was basically playing the events I had to,” he told the BBC. “Now I will have a bit more freedom.
“I have always wanted to play out here and everything has been even bigger and better than I expected.
“We go to some of the best courses in America and now I can go to all the events you want to play.
“When I made my birdie on 18 on Sunday, the first thing on my mind was ‘will that get me to Augusta?’
“It’s golf’s magic kingdom and it didn’t quite happen. But it’s still one of my goals and a good building block for 2023.”
One thing that has not changed despite his burgeoning career on the other side of the Atlantic is Tarren’s north-east roots.
He has no Florida base, unlike many of his contemporaries, and he still classes County Durham, where he lives with partner Ashleigh and young daughter Sofia Rose, as home.
Flying back and forth has never been an issue for Tarren. An attendee of Radford University in Virginia, his golf has taken him to China and the secondary circuits in America before his recent elevation.
For now, there are a couple of months off before he begins his 2023 season in California.
It will allow Callum the chance to spend time and go on holiday with his family and then work on his game at Rockliffe Hall with coach Lee McCavanagh and fitness trainer Stuart Parnaby, the former Middlesbrough footballer.
It is not a lifestyle for everyone, but Tarren’s natural positivity makes it work.
‘Playing golf is not a job’
“The plan is to carry on living in the UK for now, but I’ll probably assess that again at the end of next season,” he said.
“But the family will come out a lot more next year. My partner’s her own boss and my daughter is not in school yet so we’ll try to take advantage of that.
“I’ve said to any of my friends and family that they are always welcome to come and see me. I’m lucky enough to go to some incredible places and it’s nice to share those with the people around me.
“My dad Drew was out with me for the last two weeks. He was thrilled to see me play so well although he was so nervous. He was shaking on Sunday!
“I’m lucky in that I don’t really get homesick. Once I am set on how long I am going to be away, I am always ticking down the days and weeks.
“Obviously, I miss my family and we do a lot of stuff on FaceTime. But I love playing golf for a living.
“This is not a job, but something I love doing.”