Chandler Blanchet: Small Town Guy, Big Time Golfer

-As told to Jordan Perez

I’ve spent the majority of my professional golf career on the Korn Ferry Tour, where most weeks, 20-under is the score you need to win.

But my toughest opponent in golf has actually been my older brother, Christian, who I spent about 10 years trying to beat.

At seven, all I wanted to do was follow in his footsteps. Growing up in small-town Gainesville, FL, there’s not a ton of golf around. In the summers, I would get dropped off at the local Par-3 course, and I’d spend all day in the 90-degree heat in peak humidity. My parents forced me to lug around one of those old brick Nokia phones so they could pick me up after work.

I started playing the local junior events in Gainesville and never looked back. Eventually, I played high school golf and some AJGA events, which got me some national attention from college coaches. By the time I was a junior, I really had no idea what my future held. Man, do I wanna be hanging around these kids forever stuck in Gainesville? Or, do I wanna play golf? Not a tough answer.

Christian had a college golf career of his own at the University of South Alabama and had a small stint as a pro. He was back in Gainesville toward the end of my high school years, and finally, I clipped him one time.

Even though I was a little late to the process, I was determined to get recruited. I started email blasting all the colleges in Florida – if I could find their email, they would get a note from me.  

I remember in May 2013, I sent an email to Steve Fell, who was the head coach of West Florida. I got a one-line response: Sorry, we’re full for next year. I figured, in spite of that, I’d update him on every single event I played. It worked – and the response became: Maybe we do have a spot. I took a visit that September and immediately knew it was the right fit.

Fast forward, I’m in the Florida panhandle playing against some of the best competition I ever faced. But I adjusted fast, placing first in qualifying and second in my first event. The rest of my freshman year was alright – I played in every single event but came up with no wins. In my sophomore year, I earned my first win at our conference championship after I started working with Scott Hamilton on my swing (who I still work with to this day) and Joe Durant, who gave me some good insight on my game.

I parlayed my newfound skills into 12 months of great golf and won seven more times, including the NCAA DII individual title. I finally bought into my own golf, and even tried my hand at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying–and that taste of professional golf only made me want it more. My motivation was at an all-time high – maybe to my detriment at some points in search of perfectionism. I used all four years of my eligibility and in my senior year, came away with four wins and one shot away from a national championship. I was the anchor match and only needed to halve the hole to win. I bogeyed, and we finished runner-up.

From the national championship, I flew home and then set off to Canada to embark on my professional career. I played three weeks in a row and missed all three cuts. Well, this is different. I realized time management was huge and I desperately needed a balance to play well. I would ultimately make just three cuts in that first year.

Where the real shock came in was on the Latinoamerica Tour, which is an entirely different beast. There’s so much unknown, from long travel days, different food, a different language. You don’t drink the water. You’re not eating the veggies or the salads (lots of french fries involved). You’re texting your taxi driver on WhatsApp trying to coordinate your everyday transportation. But everyone down there is so nice and helpful, and the tour is honestly probably the best thing that's ever happened to me golf-wise. It helped me become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

I earned my first professional win in Sao Paolo and ended up being able to skip first stage of KFT Q-School. I went to second stage and made it through by a couple of shots. Then I went to final stage of Q-School and came in T119. But I still earned conditional Korn Ferry Tour status and was playing at my highest level yet.

Getting there is hard, but staying there is harder. The guys go so low every single week and the courses are so good. After I earned conditional status, I actually ended up Monday qualifying into my very first event and finished fourth that week, which got me into the rest of the events. I spent the next two years playing nearly 50 events, trying to stay afoot before losing status after the 2022 season. I missed the cut at first stage of Q-school, which has re-routed me back to the Latinoamerica Tour.

But what might have looked like my worst year in pro golf ended up being my best yet. In October, I entered a Monday qualifier for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. On barely any sleep, I played a course I had never seen before. I shot 7-under and qualified for my very first PGA Tour event. Bermuda felt a lot more like a Korn Ferry event in a lot of ways – far out, few spectators. I was quickly reminded it wasn’t when Luke Donald started rolling putts right next to me on the putting green.

Most importantly, I had way more fun when I was playing golf. I fell into a trap of playing swing or mechanics – always trying to find something to fix. I’ve learned I keep the ball in play very well and my wedges are the best part of my game, and I’m embracing that. Coincidentally, my stats have looked the best they ever have.  

Family brought me to the game, but it’s given me another reason to stay in it, too. My wife, Michaela, and I have a little boy due in May. I want to be able to support my family to the fullest degree – and Michaela has been there through it all. We met as kids when her older sister used to give us rides to school and reunited one night at a college bar in our hometown over Thanksgiving break. We’ve been married two and a half years now.

When I first learned about Carry from my agent, I thought it was too good to be true. After a few conversations with Donnie, I was so excited. In pro golf, you don’t want to be stymied by the thought of finances when every shot counts. This year’s about getting back to the Korn Ferry Tour, so I’ll be playing a lot of Monday qualifiers and a few Latinoamerica events.  

I would love to be known as somebody who is relentlessly trying to improve his game and himself, but there’s a whole other life outside of golf, too. I would love to be able to give back and inspire the next generation of golfers, especially in my hometown. Tyson Alexander, another Gainesville native, is grinding on the PGA Tour, and I’d love to be the next one out there. All my roads seem to lead back to home – a place I’ll always be proud of.