Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
FARMINGTON — As Utah native and PGA standout Tony Finau can attest, one or two weeks of tour golf can change a life (or at least, a career).
In contention all week, Patrick Fishburn learned that one or two strokes can equally change a golf tournament. But the former BYU golfer finished Sunday's final round of the Utah Championship somewhere he's never been before: in contention.
Fishburn shot 7-under-par 64 to finished tied for second after the fourth round of the Korn Ferry Tour's only stop in Utah at Oakridge Country Club, one shot behind winner Andrew Kozan. The 23-year-old Auburn grad started the week at No. 153 on the tour's points list, but carded nine birdies during a one-bogey round to win his first-ever Korn Ferry Tour victory with a four-day total of 21-under 263.
"A week ago, we were trying to plan out if we had to go to Q school or not," said Kozan, who overcame the largest final-round deficit on the Korn Ferry Tour this year from 13 spots back to win. "Now we have a chance to get a tour card next week. It's very special."
Blame it on the lucky spikes — specifically, bright pink loafers that are "more comfortable than they look," Kozan said. Sundays weren't a "pink day" before this week for the golfer who missed 11-straight cuts prior to arriving in Utah, but they may have to be now.
Or maybe the good luck charm was Kozan's newlywed wife of six months, Caylin, who has been at every event save one since they got married.
"It's awesome. Words can't describe it," an emotional Kozan said after accepting the oversized $135,000 check and crystal trophy from the Utah Sports Commission. "A lot of ups and downs these few weeks. We got married, went straight to Kansas, and it's been a great few months. We're looking forward to what we have in the future.
"I think everyone goes through these stages at every level … but she's been with me through every stage. She knows how it feels."
Fishburn's quest for his first Korn Ferry victory continues. But with a fourth-ever top-10 finish on the tour, the gap is closing for the Fremont High alum who earned $48,750 for his T2. He also moved up to No. 46 on the season's points list and all-but guaranteed himself a spot in the tour playoffs before next week's regular-season finale in Omaha, Nebraska.
"It's a very fine line. There are shots early in the week that you may not realize it may come down to," said Fishburn, who started the day three shots behind the leaders.
If nothing else, Fishburn will take an incredible memory from the final round with a roaring ovation as he approached the 18th green and the massive grandstand behind it, and the louder ovation as he drained an 18-foot birdie putt that ultimately gave him a tie for second.
"I feel like I've been very lucky to grow up in Utah, with the junior programs and the Utah Golf Association," Fishburn said. "I've had a lot of support from Ogden Golf and Country Club … and that's what I had today. It's awesome what I had today, and it improves my play when people come out to support.
"It was fun to play this week."
Another former BYU golfer was also in contention, but Peter Kuest's lone bogey at No. 10 dropped the California native to 5-under 66 and a tie for fifth, two shots behind the winner.
Kuest, whose T5 was worth $24,225, opened the final round going 3-under through three holes, including an eagle on the par-5, 565-yard second to move into the lead. He held the advantage through nine, shooting 4-under 32 on the front of the course that plays backwards from recreational player throughout the year.
The former BYU golfer from Fresno, California, was tied with a handful of other golfers atop the leaderboard when he hit the turn before he hit bogey on No. 10. He rebounded with birdies on Nos. 12 and 17, but just missed a short birdie putt on the 18th green to finish at 19-under.
"I learned that I can win out here, that I can take it low and give myself a lot of opportunities to win," said Kuest, the third-year pro who gained entry to the Utah Championship via a sponsors exemption and qualified for Omaha with his performance. "If I just keep doing the things I'm doing, then that will happen.
"It was a great opportunity, and I'm super grateful to Jeff (Robbins, Utah Sports Commission CEO) and Tony (Finau, four-time PGA Tour winner) for giving me this chance. Hopefully it paid off a little bit."
That's when his fellow Cougar alum took control on his own back nine. Fishburn carded his third consecutive birdie on the par-4, 380-yard 12th hole to surge ahead at 19-under as he sought a big payday that might clinch a PGA Tour card with a top-25 finish on the Korn Ferry Tour. Instead, he'll jump up 25 spots on the list to No. 46 ahead of next week's finale, with the top 75 guaranteed a spot in the KFT playoffs.
"It's definitely not over, because Omaha is a great golf course for me," Fishburn said after his best-ever finish in the Korn Ferry Tour event in Utah. "I almost won last year, and my swing feels really good right now. I'm really looking forward to giving it another try next week."
The tournament was one of the best ever for local Utah golfers, at least quantitatively. Seven golfers made the field, including two Monday qualifiers and two amateurs from BYU, while five of them made the cut.
Former BYU golfer Austen Christiansen, the Houston native who finished his collegiate career at Sam Houston State before turning pro last summer, shot 1-under 70 to finish at 11-under. Former BYU golfer Zac Blair added a 69 Sunday to finish at 13-under, tied with fellow BYU grad Daniel Summerhays.
After an emotional Saturday morning that included inching under the cutline with a birdie on No. 18, Summerhays made the most of his weekend on his home course. The former Davis High standout shot 4-under 67 for the second-straight day, coming into the clubhouse with back-to-back birdies — and an eagle on the par-5 15th hole — accompanied by a rousing ovation from the greenside grandstand at Oakridge.
"I never viewed myself as an adrenaline junkie. But it seems like I keep putting myself in position where my heart is beating out of my chest and my hands are shaking," Summerhays said with a laugh. "Golf's a great sport, where you can get young pretty quick with some training, mentality and technology. I'll try to stay young for as long as I can."
It could've been an even better day for Summerhays. After starting the day 2-under through three holes, the recent BYU golf volunteer assistant coach got into some trouble with a pair of bogey son the back nine.
It all melted away, though, with a his birdie on No. 15 that set up two short birdie putts on Nos. 17 and 18 to get to 13-under on the tournament for the 38-year-old golfer mulling a professional comeback after ankle and foot surgeries.
"That finish was really nice," Summerhays said. "I honestly played well all week, made some putts I shouldn't have made, and missed a lot of putts that I should have made.
"Overall, I'm really proud of how I performed, after not being able to play in a lot of tournaments. … Any year they give me a spot, I'll play here. It's incredible to play in front of friends and family."
Utah Championship pres. by Zions Bank
- 1st: Andrew Kozan; -21
- T-2: Justin Suh, Ashtorn Van Horne, Patrick Fishburn; -20
- T-5: Michael Kim, Will Gordon, Trevor Cone, Harrison Endycott, Peter Kuest; -19
- T-30: Daniel Summerhays, Zac Blair; -11
- T-47: Austen Christiansen; -11