PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – On Sunday at PGA Golf Club, the rain kept falling, the wind was constant, and the nearest competitor was relentless. In the end, nothing proved enough to slow Ryan Zylstra.
The 38-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, won the 41st National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship with a finishing score of 11-under 277. With his victory, Zylstra claimed the first-place prize of $12,000 from the $150,000 total purse. Derek Berg finished with a solo second, one stroke back at 10-under 278.
“I don’t know what this win is going to do for me,” said Zylstra, who spends his time at The Federal Club in Glen Allen, Virginia. “I’m new to the business. I’ve only been an apprentice since February. I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to play a lot of golf and get to represent my club and family.”
Zylstra, playing in the penultimate group, entered the final round trailing Berg by two strokes. With wet and windy conditions at the Wanamaker Course, he attacked the front nine and converted three birdies on holes 3, 5, and 6. With a three-putt bogey on the par-3 4th, Zylstra made the turn at 10-under for the Championship.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Zylstra, referring to the weather. “You have two options: you either embrace it and take it for what it is, or let it bother you and get upset. I figured if I could maintain a good attitude that I’d be able to do the best I could. Accept that there’s going to be rough patches, you’re going to hit bad shots and get bad breaks. Everyone’s getting it. I’m not the only one playing these conditions. I think that really helped keep me levelheaded.”
Zylstra’s positivity helped him overcome a three-putt bogey at the 10th. He would add two birdies at 13 and 16, where he played a combined 7-under during the Championship. Par saves on 17 and 18 sealed the victory. Berg, the 36 and 54-hole leader, entered the final round with a one-stroke advantage on the field. The 36-year-old from Duvall, Washington, played steady through his first eight holes, with seven pars and a birdie on the par-3 6th. Berg, who is an apprentice at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington, faltered on the 9th hole with a bogey to make the turn at even-par for the day. Bogeys by Berg on 13 and 14 proved to be enough separation for Zylstra to pull away.
Adam Rainaud (Chester, Connecticut) and Ryan Botts (Lebanon, Tennessee) tied for third place at 5-under 283.
2017 has been quite the year for Zylstra, who was recently named the Middle Atlantic PGA Section OMEGA Player of the Year. He has won a mind-boggling thirteen times this year, including his victory on Sunday. But his greatest accomplishment came by the way of his first child, Jaxon, who was born this past summer, days after winning the State Open of Virginia.
“I really love competitive golf,” said Zylstra. “I struggled for a lot of years as a professional on mini tours. The birth of my son has eased up everything this year. From that aspect, golf isn’t as important to me as it was previous years when I was trying to grind it out.
“I didn’t see this year coming. I always knew I had the potential to do this once I figured out how to win. This year has just been unreal. I’m very thankful.”
With their finish in the top 4, Zylstra, Berg, Rainaud, and Botts have earned a berth into the 2018 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, provided eligibility is met and maintained. The 2018 Championship will be played November 15-18 at PGA Golf Club.
The 41st National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship was supported by Cleveland Golf, Srixon, XXIO, John Deere, and Golf Advisor.
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