Riley Wheeldon of Comox earned his first NGA Pro Golf Tour victory Sunday by a single stroke over Brian Richey and Patton Kizzire in the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club in North Augusta, South Carolina.
Like the previous three events of the season, the outcome of the 14th annual Kandy Waters 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, the Highland Secondary grad 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.”