Andy Ogletree traveled the world to get out of golf limbo – and he did it

Georgia Tech alum Andy Ogletree hits on the 8th hole next to Tiger Woods during the first round of the Masters in Nov. 2020 at Augusta National. (Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

Georgia Tech alum Andy Ogletree hits on the 8th hole next to Tiger Woods during the first round of the Masters in Nov. 2020 at Augusta National. (Curtis Compton /

Having bailed himself out of pro golf limbo, Alpharetta’s Andy Ogletree has a little time here at the close of 2023 to set his feet upon familiar red clay, draw a few deep breaths and take stock of one impressive, yet still incomplete, reclamation project.

Although some of the details remain fuzzy. “I don’t even know how many miles I flew this year,” he said last week. At the time, he was awaiting a salmon BLT at his Golf Club of Georgia home base – such fare hard to come by for him the last year or so.

“All the places I went to kind of run together. I got to see a lot of stuff.”

For the past 18 months, Ogletree, 25, the winner of the 2019 U.S. Am while still at Georgia Tech, has played a schedule with serious Indiana Jones overtones. Bumped from the LIV Tour after one event, banned from the PGA Tour because of his LIV affiliation, he packed his clubs and his passport and went looking for a playing future.

Along the way Ogletree snatched victory at the Madinaty Golf Club in Cairo, the Doha Golf Club in Qatar, the Close House Golf Club in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Last month at the Hong Kong Golf Club he clinched the Order of Merit as the top player on the LIV-backed Asian Tour. And with that earned a spot on the 2024 LIV circuit, in whatever form it may take as talks of a merger with the PGA Tour continue.

Ogletree’s sport is full of had-it/lost-it/got-it-back stories. His, though, consisting of so many laps around the globe, sounds particularly grueling.

The adjectives he uses to describe the journey confirm as much:

“Busy. Tiring. Exhausting. But also very rewarding to go out and earn my way back to LIV Golf.

“To have a pathway created on the Asian Tour, to have great competition, to be able to see the world and learn my golf game a little bit better has been super rewarding. I think I’ll look back on that year-and-a-half as the most important time in my career so far.”

That career has majored in strange. COVID-19 both cut short his college career at Tech and delayed his chance to appear at the Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion. He finally got around to that in the bizarre November Masters of 2020, finishing as low amateur at 2 under in front of only a gallery of pines.

Missing cuts in three PGA Tour starts in 2021, Ogletree then spent most of the rest of that year recovering from surgery for a torn labrum in his hip. Neither his game nor his body were quite right entering the next year. And then, when he announced he would play in the first-ever LIV event in June of that year – becoming an immediate PGA Tour pariah – some thought his mind had gone, too.

“It was tough looking at social media and looking at what people were saying about me,” he said, “because people didn’t understand I had nowhere else to play.”

The cruel comments were further fueled by his awful performance in that first LIV event – finishing 48th in the 48-man field at 24 over. LIV replaced him soon afterward.

As Ogletree describes it, he wasn’t exactly overflowing with options. His status was so low on the PGA-affiliated Korn Ferry Tour that he was relegated to Monday qualifying events (he indeed never played in one of those minor league tournaments).

“I was exhausted trying to get into tournaments,” he explained. “When LIV called and offered me a chance to play in the first tournament and give me full Asian Tour status, it was a no-brainer for me just to have somewhere to play. I needed to play a schedule, to play tournaments that matter, not just mini-tour events and Monday qualifiers.”

So, a kid from tiny Union, Mississippi, set off to see the world and find his game. Despite struggling to get his swing in synch after the hip and occasional back issues and all the unknowns facing him on a foreign tour, Ogletree ventured off with a surprisingly upbeat attitude. “After playing in the first LIV event and playing so poorly, I still had a lot of hope,” he said. “I knew I had a lot of tournaments coming up to play and I knew I had a schedule ahead of me and my body was going to get better and better.”

At first, the culture shock was intense.

He’d show up at a course looking for a caddie, and often the one he found spoke little English.

The support of family and coaches was thousands of miles away. “It’s pretty lonely when you’re across the world by yourself – I was traveling completely by myself for a while,” he said.

Asian time zones distorted his body clock. His Southern palette did not adapt to its new surroundings.

“I still love a steakhouse,” he said. “I tried to find those in every country I was in. It was tough to find some meals every now and then.”

Not only did Ogletree survive all the challenges, he thrived. His game came around, and he won for the first time in Egypt in November 2022, shooting a 62 in the final round to win by a comfortable four strokes.

“From that point he was off and running,” said Bruce Heppler, Ogletree’s coach back at Georgia Tech.

The breakthrough for Ogletree, Heppler said, “was getting healthy and chance to get in a rhythm.”

“Once you know when you’re going to play, where you’re going to play, then your practice makes sense. He’s just really good. Once he knew he could play this season it didn’t matter where he was,” Heppler added.

Ogletree fell into a routine of playing a few LIV events as an alternate along with 11 Asian Tour events – with some precious off time in Atlanta. His girlfriend began making a few trips abroad with him. And when he added former Tech teammate Michael Pisciotta as a full-time caddie in April, there was someone else with whom to share the experience. Someone else to enjoy a little celebration in Macoa after clinching the Order of Merit.

A couple of more victories plus more than $1.1 million in winnings this season proved to be very healing.

Ogletree liked what he found out about himself through it all: “I think I learned a resilience, a toughness more than anything. I learned I loved golf. I learned that good golf takes care of everything.

“I kept telling myself that the opportunity ahead was very significant, and I was determined to get on a major tour, with LIV Golf. I always knew my good golf was really good. But it was more about learning how to play tournaments and commit to every shot. I learned a lot of patience and learned how to be on my own and want it for myself and not worry about anything else that comes with it – just try to play the best golf I could every week.”

Strength of attitude was particularly important. “He seemed really happy about it. I never heard a single negative thing about where he went or where he had to play or the travel or anything,” Heppler said.

Professional golf currently is a urethane ball of confusion, and Ogletree is back in the middle of the muddle. The LIV season is scheduled to open in February in Las Vegas, with him very much a part of it.

As to what else might open up to the 2019 U.S. Am champ, he can’t say. The merger between the two groups seems stalled, the Dec. 31 deadline for the deal reportedly in jeopardy.

Those who went with LIV did so knowing full well that they could be excluded from golf’s major events. Ogletree doesn’t allow himself to believe that there won’t be a place for him in those sometime in the future.

“No one knows what’s going on,” he said. “As players we’re kind of in the dark. I trust that they’ll find a way to get all the best players in the world in the same tournaments again – especially the major championships.

“They’re going to have to figure out a way to get LIV golf involved because there are so many great talented players that add value to the major championships. ... They’ll find a way to coexist eventually. For now we’re just playing it by ear, learning as everyone else is learning.”

At this point, after all he had to go through to escape limbo, why should Ogletree start accepting limits now?

“I think my goals are so much bigger than what I’ve already accomplished. Even when I accomplish great things I don’t feel like I’ve done that much,” he said. “I think what’s coming is a lot bigger. I just want to keep getting better and better and see where I can take this thing.”