Rookie Paul Haley admitted his final round in the inaugural Chile Classic on the Nationwide Tour “wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough.” Haley started Sunday’s final round with a six-stroke lead, and needed only a 1-under-par 71 at the Prince of Wales Country Club to finish at 22 under par, win by three and earn his first victory in just his third career start.
“I expected to come out here and play well, but nobody expects to win in their third professional start,” said the 24-year-old Georgia Tech grad out of Dallas. “This is awesome.”
Stanford’s Joesph Bramlett made a charge up the ranks and put pressure on the leader by matching the course record with an 8-under 64 to finish at 19 under and solo second. Paul Claxton (68) was third, four shots back. Steven Alker (66) and Rob Oppenheim (69) tied for fourth, six off the pace.
Haley’s day was good at the end, but it didn’t start that way. Normally reliable tee shots that produced consecutive 64s in the second and third rounds were suddenly off line. He missed all but one fairway in his first 12 holes.
“I felt like if I could just hit a fairway, I’d be okay,” said Haley. “I was hitting my irons fairly well and my putter felt great all day. I figured if I could somehow get a ball in the fairway, the birdies would eventually come.”
Haley turned the front in even par, leaving the door open for any potential challengers.
“I didn’t have any idea what he was doing. I figured he was just off and running and going to do his own thing,” said Bramlett. “He was 10 shots ahead of me to start the day, and if he keeps playing the way he has been he’s out of reach.”
Haley would have preferred that, but instead found himself drifting closer to the pack.
Bramlett, 70 minutes in front, had gotten to within two with a birdie at No. 17. By the time he putted out for his 64, Haley had found the fairway at the par-4 12th hole. He stuffed in a 6-foot birdie putt to widen the lead to three and then backed that up with another fairway found and a 12-foot birdie at No. 14. His lead was back to a more comfortable four.
“The course set-up was the hardest of the week and other than Joseph, nobody was going crazy low on the front nine,” said Haley, who picked up a check for $108,000 and moved to No. 2 on the money list. “I didn’t look to see how things were until 14. I wanted to know what I had to do to get it in.”
A bogey at 15 cut the lead to three, but then he steadied himself with three pars down the stretch to close it out. At the 506-yard, par-5 18th hole, Haley took the safe route after finding one last fairway.
“I had only 195 yards to the flag and I laid up with a pitching wedge,” he said. “At that point it was just don’t do anything stupid. Just hit a wedge and a wedge. I had four putts to win, which was pretty nice.”
From there, it was sign the card and go get the trophy.
“I played incredible golf for 72 holes,” said Haley. “My putter was the key all week. When that last one went in, it was just euphoria. I’m always going to remember my first trip to this great country.”
--Paul Haley adds his name to the list of Georgia Tech grads who have won on the Nationwide Tour, including 1996 Player of the Year Stewart Cink and 2005 leading money-winner Troy Matteson.
--Steven Alker shot a 6-under 66, his third bogey-free round of the week. Alker had only two bogeys in Saturday’s third round.
--Nine players from Chile played this week and five made the cut. Benjamin Alvarado (tied for eighth) and Mark Tullo (tied for 12th) both finished in the top 25 and qualified for the Tour’s next stop in Lafayette, La., in two weeks.