Riley Wheeldon wins Kandy Waters Memorial Classic
North Augusta, SC March 17, 2013 – After winning the Spring Hill Classic last week, Justin Lower remarked that NGA TOUR fields are so deep there could be 18 different winners in 2013.
Well, so far, so good.
On Sunday, Riley Wheeldon of Comox, B.C., became the fourth different winner in four events this season on the top-ranked development tour, earning his first NGA TOUR victory by a single stroke over Brian Richey and Patton Kizzire in the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club.
Like the previous three events of the season, the outcome of the 14th annual Kandy Waters Memorial Classic wasn’t decided until the back nine in the final round. Wheeldon used a couple of late birdies to card a 2-under 70 on Sunday and finished with a 4-under 284 total.
“It was a difficult week and a grind all week,” said Wheeldon, who earned $30,500. “It feels great to win here with the history of this event. This is my first pro victory, so that feels good. Winning in Augusta feels special. Obviously, it’s not the one that I ultimately want, but it feels great and I’m happy I came out on top.”
While the event wasn’t played at Augusta National, the scores certainly had a major feel to them, with only six players finishing under par for the week. Early in the final round, Riley looked to be one of the golfers that would fail to get into red numbers at the conclusion of the four-round event.
The University of Louisville standout, who started the day at T4 at 2-under par, found himself going the wrong direction to start play on Sunday, shooting 2-over par through the first seven holes.
“I tried to stay patient,” said Wheeldon. “I had a tendency in the past to get off my game and get mad. I’ve been working on hanging in there, and luckily this week it worked out.”
Wheeldon bounced back with a birdie on No. 9 and added another on No. 10 to get back to even par for the day. And birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 pushed the Canadian golfer atop the leaderboard for good.
After pars on Nos. 16 and 17, Wheeldon calmly rolled in a four-foot putt on No. 18 to join PGA TOUR winners Camilo Villegas, Scott Piercy, Zach Johnson and Vaughn Taylor as a podium finisher in the prestigious event.
With the large payday, Wheeldon may have a shot at teeing up with the former KWMC standouts on the PGA TOUR in 2013. Wheeldon currently leads the Race for the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am event exemption and trails only Lower in the season money standings. The money leader at the halfway point of the season will earn an event exemption in the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open.
“It was one of my goals coming into this event to put myself in position to win the BMW and Reno exemptions,” said Wheeldon, who finished with rounds of 74, 70, 70 and 70. “It’s great that the NGA TOUR gets these exemptions. It provides extra motivation, and I’m glad I got off to a good start.”
For a large portion of the final round, Kizzire looked to be the golfer that would get the jump in the exemption race. The former University of Auburn standout from St. Simons Island, Ga., built a two-stroke lead through 12 holes, but he played the final six holes at 1 over to fall into a tie for second. Kizzire, who earned $12,521, finished with rounds of 71-73-71-70 for a 3-under 285 total.
Richey of Lakeland, Fla., used two late birdies to join Kizzire on the podium. The former Florida Southern standout finished with rounds of 71-72-71-71 for a 285 total, earning $12,521 in the process.
Third-round leader Brent Long posted his first round of the week over par at the most inopportune time, shooting a 3-over 75 on Sunday. In doing so, the Carthage, Tenn., golfer slipped into a tie for fourth at 1-under par with Lower (74) and Chris Erwin (68). The trio earned $7,616 each.
Jon Curran, a former Vanderbilt All-American from Tequesta, Fla., posted a 2-under 70 in the final round to get back to even par for the event and finished in solo seventh. After earning $6,259, Curran, who finished T24 in the PGA TOUR’s Puerto Rico Classic last week, moved into fourth on the NGA TOUR money list.
Wallace Booth (70), Derek Rende (72) and John Duthie (72) finished T8 at 1-over par, while Lee Chaney (69), Chris Devlin (71) and Jonathan Bartlett (73) all finished at 2-over par and tied for 11th.
The NGA TOUR will return to action next week with the playing of the Milton Martin Honda Classic in Gainesville, Ga.
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