Wes Roach wasn’t surprised to see a “919” number on his phone but was surprised by the voice mail left on it.
It was Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, calling to say congratulations.
Roach, a former Duke golfer, had won the El Bosque Mexico Championship in April. It was his first victory on the Web.com Tour and a big step toward his goal of returning to the PGA Tour next year.
Seeing “919,” Roach thought it was an uncle who had called from Durham. But he quickly recognized that Coach K voice.
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“He just said ‘Congrats and it’s been a great month for the Dookies and keep winning,’ “ Roach said. “That was pretty cool.”
Roach, 26, was ecstatic when the Blue Devils won the national championship, beating Wisconsin. He’d also like to win again soon on the Web.com Tour, preferably this week at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
Roach will have some family and friends watching him play. He also has a friendly rivalry going with another tour player, Peter Malnati.
Both live in Knoxville, Tenn., and have played together when they’re home. Malnati is the Web.com Tour’s leading money winner this year and Roach No. 3, causing an exchange of texts.
“We’re shooting those texts back and forth saying we’re pumped about where we are,” Malnati said, smiling. “I think both of us know how valuable it is to be No. 1, so I think we’re both gunning for that. It’s pretty neat.”
Roach has the prototypical pro golfer’s look at 6 feet 3 inches and 185 pounds. Malnati, who played college golf at Missouri, is 5-10 and lists his weight as precisely 159 pounds.
Check out the 2015 tour statistics and Roach is ranked No. 1 all-around. He’s 10th in driving distance, averaging 316.6 yards, and sixth in scoring average at 69.52 strokes per round.
Malnati’s stats, with one exception, belie a guy who has banked $197,142. He’s 110th in driving, 104th in driving accuracy and 68th in greens hit in regulation. He’s 44th in scoring average (70.56) and 43rd in the all-around ranking.
The exception? Malnati is seventh in putting average.
“His short game is really good,” Roach said.
There’s also the matter of how Malnati goes about his business, Roach added. “He’s as positive as anyone you’ll ever meet,” he said.
Malnati, 27, has done it the hard way. He spent a few years playing on the eGolf Tour in the Carolinas, paying entry fees and hoping to play well enough to win back more. He first played his way onto the Web.com Tour through Monday qualifying, beating the odds.
“My journey has been about steadily improving,” Malnati said. “I wasn’t a flashy junior player. I went to college, and I was a lousy player the first two years. I had a nice senior year and decided to turn pro, then was back to lousy again.”
But Malnati kept at it. He won the 2013 News Sentinel Open on the Web.com Tour in Knoxville. He made it to the PGA Tour in 2014, but couldn’t win enough money to stay on the big tour this year.
Roach, in turn, has had a somewhat smoother ride but with similar frustration. Starting on the Web.com Tour in 2012, he also reached the PGA Tour a year ago and won more than $453,000, but it wasn’t enough to keep him there.
Malnati, with his wife, Alicia, as his caddie, used a victory in the Brasil Champions in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in mid-March to vault to the top of the Web.com money list. He soon was being pushed by Roach – after a major gaffe.
Roach was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard during the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in March. Checking online after a second-round 76, he noticed a wrong score listed for a hole and alerted tour officials.
“That was frustrating for sure, but I guess it kind of fired me up,” Roach said.
Three weeks later, in his next tour start, Roach won the Mexico Championship in Guanajuato with a 65-68 finish. The victory was worth $126,000.
“It freed me up a little so that I don’t have to put so much pressure on each week,” Roach said.
And there was one other perk. Coach K called.
Rex Hospital Open
What: Web.com Tour event.
Where: TPC Wakefield Plantation, Raleigh.
Purse: $625,000, with winner receiving $112,500.
Ticket and parking information: www.rexhospitalopen.com