Farmington • In multiple moments of Sunday’s final round, the Korn Ferry Tour’s online scoreboard told of the life-changing possibilities for former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn.
Fishburn periodically claimed the lead of the Utah Championship, and the number “19″ kept appearing next to his name as his projected spot in the standings. With a victory at Oakridge Country Club, he would have moved into prime position to claim of the 25 PGA Tour cards that will be awarded next Sunday.
The consequences of what Fishburn would label “just one bad swing, really,” likely will stick with him for a while. A dramatic 18th-hole birdie in front of a home-state gallery served only to make a 17th-hole bogey more costly. The Ogden native finished in a three-way tie for second place, one stroke behind unlikely champion Andrew Kozan. Peter Kuest, Fishburn’s college teammate, tied for fifth after lipping out a birdie try on No. 18.
The presentation of the $135,000 winner’s check to Kozan concluded a sequence of events that the Auburn University product described as “insane.” That’s a good summary of a tournament that always comes with a lot of twists and turns. The latest outcome especially was a stretch, after Kozan had failed to qualify for the weekend rounds in any of his last 11 tournaments.
“We pushed through so much this season – a lot of downs, and we pushed through everything, to the top,” said Kozan, who shot 63-70-67-63 for a 21-under-par total. Having teed off 70 minutes before the last twosome, Kozan started the round tied for 13th place with Fishburn and others, three strokes off the lead. He finished it in the Oakridge clubhouse, nervously watching the Golf Channel telecast with Caylin, his wife of two months.
His rookie season was such a struggle that Kozan is a rare case of a Korn Ferry Tour winner who won’t necessarily advance to the PGA Tour. He’s now No. 41, meaning he’ll probably have the same top-75 opportunity as Fishburn (No. 46), competing for an additional 25 cards via the three-event KFT Finals that start Aug. 18 in Boise, Idaho.
Fishburn is guaranteed KFT access in 2023, yet it’s crazy to think that in a season when he missed five of the first six cuts and six of seven in another stretch, he could have gone to the PGA Tour in September by winning Sunday. He gave himself that opportunity with three straight birdies to begin the back nine, including the par-4 No. 10, the tournament’s toughest hole that plays as the par-5 No. 1 for Oakridge members.
His undoing was the drive on No. 17 that flew from left to right as planned, only he wished he started it farther left. He had to play a punch shot from the hillside, and the ball bounced over the green and into the rough. “Pretty good shot from there,” he told his caddie, Ryan Sarlo, upon arriving at the ball.
But after his chip shot stopped 15 feet short, he looked down at the thick grass and said, “Terrible lie.”
His par putt looked good, but slid across the hole on the right side. His 18-footer on No. 18 basically doubled his week’s earnings to $48,750, just not the huge reward that once was available.
“It’s a very fine line,” said Fishburn, who should know. Last August, he earned his KFT Finals spot by one stroke with a tie for fourth place in the final event of the regular season in Omaha, Neb.
From start to finish, this was by far the most BYU-centric Utah Championship in the event’s 31 years at five venues. Five former Cougars – Fishburn, Kuest, Zac Blair, Daniel Summerhays and Austen Christiansen – played the weekend rounds, while current golfers Carson Lundell and David Timmins missed the cut.
Kuest bogeyed No. 10 and failed to birdie the par-5 No. 15, but he wouldn’t lament any shot, not even the birdie try on No. 18 that would have done him a lot of good in the standings. “I learned that I can win out here,” he said.
Kuest earned his biggest check as a pro golfer ($24,225) and moved up to No. 125, still a long way from the top 75 that would extend his 2022 season or even the top 100 that would send him to the final stage of the KFT qualifying tournament.
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