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Where are they Now? - Nick Chianello

Former state golf champ is busy building a professional playing career

THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Chianello takes a practice swing off the tee at Gresham Golf Course. He picked up a win at an Emerald Valley event in May. It's never been difficult to find Nick Chianello. Simply drive to the golf course and check the fairways.

His father Jim, a former golf pro at Glendoveer and Director of Instruction at Tualatin Island Greens, introduced his son to golf at a young age and his passion for the sport has only grown over the years.

As a senior at Centennial High, he holed out from 35 yards out on the 18th green to claim a share of the 2009 state title. He went on to compete at the University of Portland, and when the Pilots dropped their program, he transferred to Oregon State to finish his collegiate career. He ranks third all-time for the Beavers with his 72.48 career scoring average.

Now, he is chasing his dream on the pro circuit, and working at PGA West in Palm Springs when he's not traveling to tournaments.

“I always knew this was a path I was going to take,” Chianello said. “Not many get that easy path to the PGA Tour. It's a grind and you have to work hard, but I still love it so the pursuit is a lot of fun.”

Chianello compares the tiers of professional golf to the world of baseball with many athletes battling in the minor leagues to get a chance at the big show.

That has been the last several years for Chianello, who keeps himself busy traveling to tournaments around the country from Phoenix to Walla Walla to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He serves as his own travel manager and quickly learned to schedule multiple tournaments in the same area in part to reduce travel expenses and also to keep him in the groove of playing.

July was a busy month beginning with a Web.com qualifier in Illinois, followed a few days later the Waterloo Open in Iowa and a few days later by the Greater Cedar Rapids Open. Before ending his summer, he travelled to San Francisco and Newport Beach — five events in little more than two weeks.

“It's not like college where you have a schedule all laid out for you, and you just show up and play,” Chianello said. “I'm doing this on a budget, so I try to pick tourneys that are worthwhile. And if you leave yourself a month gap, it can be difficult to get back into the flow of things.”

Chianello's greatest success this season came at Oregon courses, winning the Emerald Valley Open and placing fourth at the Iceberg Open at Rose City in the spring.

Much like baseball, the minor tournaments don't feature the huge paydays of the PGA events that are televised on weekends. Win on the Pepsi Tour and travel may be a bit easier for the next few weeks, but you're not upgrading to first-class tickets.

“You pay your entry fee and take on all these other guys for a purse, hoping you come away with enough money to go out and do it again the next week,” Chianello said. “When you are playing golf for your living, you learn to play smart and take calculated risks on the course. Your mental game grows out on tour. If you hit bogey on one of the first couple holes, you calm yourself down and stick to the game plan.”

Chianello started fast as a pro with wins in his first two events.

“I was thinking this is so easy, why don't more people do this,” Chianello laughs. “Then reality catches up to you. It's not easy, there's a lot of competition out there.”

In 2015, Chianello travelled to Germany along with fellow East County golfer Vincent Johnson (David Douglas) in a quest to make the European Tour. This summer his focus has returned stateside where the widest path to the PGA is the Web.com tour.

The top tier players on the Web.com money list earn PGA Tour cards for the following season. Qualifying School in the fall allows golfers to compete in a three-stage survive-and-advance format to gain a spot on next season's Web.com circuit.

Chianello has returned home to Gresham for August with plans for some camping and rafting trips before embarking on his Q-School quest in September.

“It's a much more difficult journey than anyone can imagine, but I just want to stay sharp and when I get that opportunity take advantage of it,” Chianello said. “All of my friends and family are super supportive.”