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IU grad on rise in

Wheatcroft on run as event in city draws near


– Steve Wheatcroft’s confidence was at an all-time low last month, after he’d missed the cut in eight of 10 events on the Tour, the PGA Tour’s minor-league circuit, and pocketed a paltry $28,864 in earnings.

Almost all of that came from two tournaments: an 11th-place finish at the Panama Claro Championship in March and a 14th-place finish at Rex Hospital Open in May.

“Definitely, I basically had no confidence. I was really having a rough year, and it was really starting to frustrate me,” the former Indiana University golfer said.

“But then I got some momentum.”

And that’s how golf is often funny. You can be at the top of your game, then suddenly get the yips. Or you can be ready to quit, then you start hitting magical shots.

The latter started happening for Wheatcroft on July 10 when he posted a 6-under 66 at Willow Creek Country Club in the opening round of the Utah Championship, which propelled him to a 21st-place finish at 11 under – and $6,500 – at Sandy, Utah.

The next week, in the Albertsons Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club in Boise, Idaho, he opened with a 7-under 64, went on to finish stroke play at 24 under, defeated Steven Alker on the first playoff hole and pocketed $144,000.

That victory, the second of his career, jumped him from 89th to 11th on the money list.

Confidence had been restored.

“It’s wild and what I love about the sport,” said Wheatcroft, 36, who was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania. “You can hate it and love it, but you always have a chance. You can miss the cut all year and then have one good week and still make it a pretty successful season.”

Wheatcroft’s recent success has helped propel him to 13th in the Tour’s rankings and puts him in line to compete in the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club from Aug. 28 to 31.

That is the first of four events in the Tour’s Finals, which determine PGA Tour cards for next season.

The Hotel Fitness Championship, which was won in 2013, its inaugural year, by former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, will include the top 75 players from the Tour and Nos. 126 to 200 in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list.

Last year at Sycamore Hills, Wheatcroft tied for 60th at five under, which put him 15 strokes back of Immelman.

He narrowly missed earning a return to the PGA Tour, where he played 27 events (earning $408,595) in 2010 and played 22 events ($135,196) in 2012.

“Putting and chipping has always been a strength of mine. Ball striking hasn’t,” said Wheatcroft, who averages 29.4 putts per round, 58th best on the Tour, after ranking 20th with 28.95 putts per round last year.

“I’m trying to strengthen my stroke and become the best putter I can and try to continue to improve my game.”

Next Tour event: Price Cutter Charity Championship, Thursday through Sunday, at Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Missouri.

HFC bubble watch: Mike Weir, who has eight victories on the PGA Tour, including the 2003 Masters, is ranked 128th in the FedExCup points list and has earned $848,413 this year.

HFC alumni on PGA Tour: Will MacKenzie, who missed the cut at two under, has five top-10 finishes and has earned $1,812,878 this year. He was second at the Valero Texas Open.