As an 18-year-old playing in on an exemption in a PGA Tour event, Charlie Reiter so impressed Jon Rahm with his clubhead speed that the Spaniard said he expected the lanky teen to hit it by him.
“He hits it far and when I mean far, I mean really far, like he can easily get it past me,” said Rahm, then the third-ranked player in the world, who was a member with Reiter at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert. “He reminds me of Brandon Hagy (a Cal product and another TrackMan marvel); they’re both similar build, not the biggest guys, but they’re just fit and have a lot of power.”
During the second round of the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge (now the American Express) Reiter averaged 348.5 yards off the tee in the second round on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course, where he pounded two of the three longest drives recorded during the event’s first 54 holes. In the third round, he averaged 332.5 yards on a windy day around PGA West’s Stadium Course.
Reiter started consistently hitting the ball more than 300 yards during his freshman year of high school, when he was just 14 years old. And the prodigy’s golf story begins in infancy. His father, Mike, a skilled golfer who played on the mini-tours, used to put plastic clubs in Charlie’s crib. By age 4, Reiter won his first tournament.
Trophies began to pile up. When Reiter was 10 he competed in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship at PGA West.
And now, finally, Reiter has a professional golf tour to play — at least for the rest of the year.
Reiter, who turned pro last fall after a summer that saw him play in the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur, rallied from four shots back at the start of the day Friday to win a U.S. qualifier tournament for the PGA Tour Canada. With a final-round 3-under 69 at Soboba Springs Golf Club in San Jacinto. Reiter is now fully exempt for the Canada tour that begins its season in June.
“Now I have a full schedule over the summer,” Reiter said after gaining full status for the Canada circuit. “I know what the summer will be.”
Reiter finished at 15-under 283, including a sizzling 64 in the third round, to edge Kyle Karazissis of La Quinta by a single shot. Karazissis, a mini-tour golfer who also caddies at The Quarry in La Quinta, will be exempt on the PGA Tour Canada for the first five events, through that tour’s first reshuffle of exemptions.
Reiter’s victory turned on a two-shot swing on the final hole Friday. On the par-5, Reiter hit a good drive and reached the green in two shots, while Karazissis was forced to lay up and reached the green in three shots. Reiter had a routine two-putt from 20 feet for his birdie, but Karazissis three-putted from 35 feet, including a hard lip out of his par putt from about 10 feet.
Reiter, who played college golf at both USC and the University of San Diego, fired rounds of 70, 70, 64 and 69 to win the qualifier. Karazissis held a four-shot lead over Reiter at the start of the day but stumbled to a 74 Friday.
Reiter started his final round quickly with three consecutive birdies on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, but he followed that with three bogeys in a row starting on the eighth hole.
The comeback started with a birdie on the 13th hole, then continued with a birdie-2 on the 16th hole. Reiter then completed the comeback with the birdie on the 18th.
Qualifying for the PGA Tour Canada was always part of Reiter’s plan for 2023 after he missed signup dates for Korn Ferry Tour qualifying last fall and also struggled for the money to sign up since he was still an amateur.
“I wasn’t thinking about (Korn Ferry qualifying) that quickly. I was just sort of so jumbled up with the U.S. Am and stuff like that,” Reiter said. “I just kind of forgot about it.”
This year he has played in the Asher Tour, a mini-tour mostly in California, while preparing for PGA Tour Canada qualifying.
“This is kind of the other first little way,” Reiter said of PGA Tour Canada qualifying.
Reiter, whose 2022 season also included a victory in the California State Amateur, has experience in professional events, having played in PGA Tour’s The American Express three times as an amateur, including when he was a senior at Palm Desert High School.
The PGA Tour Canada will play a 10-event schedule starting with the Royal Beach Victoria Open June 15-18. The tour will end its year with a Fortinet Cup Championship in September. The Order of Merit winner from the tour will earn status on the PGA Tour’s developmental Korn Ferry Tour in 2024.
“There are other opportunities,” Reiter added. “I’m playing in May up in Reno, the Reno Open, and If you win that, you get to play in the Barracuda (Championship on the PGA Tour in July). You never know.”
A win at the Barracuda Championship would put Reiter in more PGA Tour events in the following weeks.
“If I could play in three or four straight events, I would probably get conditional status,” Reiter said.
The PGA Tour remains the ultimate goal for the 23-year-old who is still living in San Diego for now. But his summer will also include U.S. Open qualifying, something he did last summer that allowed him to play his way into his first U.S. Open last June.
“It will be a busy summer,” Reiter said.
(Some reporting for this post came from a 2018 story on Reiter by then-staffer Brentley Romine.)