SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Three thousand, seven hundred and 80 days.
For many, the journey to the PGA TOUR is a long, slow grind, but Paul Haley II’s perseverance and determination was rewarded today when he lifted the trophy for the 2022 Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS, earning his first Korn Ferry Tour victory since the 2012 Chile Classic Presented by Pacific Rubiales on March 11, 2012.
“Obviously, it's been a long time, but I've been really close here these last four years, so very excited to get it done today,” said Haley following Sunday’s final round. “It was kind of just my time today.”
Over 10 years ago – three thousand, seven hundred and 80 days to be exact – Haley won by three strokes at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, Chile, a victory which propelled him to a PGA TOUR card at season’s end. During the 2012-13 PGA TOUR season, the Dallas, Texas native made just three cuts in 18 TOUR starts and once again found himself on the outside looking in. During a three-year stretch from 2016-18, Haley competed on mini-tours and, while struggling for consistency, managed his find his way back to the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Just getting my status back out here in 2018 was huge for me,” said Haley. “My dad and Randy Smith, my swing coach, when it got really bad for me, they just did not even second guess quitting as bad as I almost wanted to. They just said, ‘No, we're not letting you do it.’”
Fast forward to Sunday at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield, Illinois, where Haley shot a final-round 7-under 64 to finish the week at 27-under par and win by three strokes over Austin Eckroat in solo second. With the victory, the 34-year-old Haley improved his season total to 1,318 points, officially becoming #TOURBound and securing a PGA TOUR card for the 2022-23 season.
“That feels amazing,” said an elated Haley. “I'm getting married in December. This last year has been amazing, for that to happen for me this year before I get married to Katie. Ecstatic.”
With the win, Haley improved from 14th to second on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List, and now trails China’s Carl Yuan by 399 points in the race for the No. 1 spot. At the end of the 26-event season, the Korn Ferry Tour’s cumulative points leader (regular season plus Korn Ferry Tour Finals) will earn an exemption into the 2023 PLAYERS Championship as well as the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
“It feels good. It's really hard to win, especially now just because everybody is really good now,” added Haley. “I don't know what second or third place was, but probably 23-, 22-under. You just have to be pretty much dialed in for four days to win a golf tournament now, which makes it feel better when you do it. So really excited.”
Haley posted a bogey-free final-round Sunday, starting hot with birdies on Nos. 1-2. He would rattle off two more birdies on Nos. 6-7 to finish out his front nine with a 4-under 31. On the back, knowing he controlled his own destiny, Haley birdied 12, 13 and 16 to close out the victory.
Asked about the feeling of walking up 18 with a multi-shot lead in the final round, Haley said, “It’s a good feeling. At the same time, it's like you watch these guys on TV and they have three putts to win or whatever and all that's going through your mind is, ‘Somehow don't screw this up.’ It felt really good. The second I hit my second shot on the green here, I knew it was over. I was really happy and couldn't wait to get out of here.”
It was Haley’s third round on Saturday that drove him up the leaderboard, though, as he posted a 10-under 61, marking his lowest-ever round in 149 career PGA TOUR-sanctioned appearances. Despite the impressive third-round performance, Haley still had nerves when he stepped on the tee on Sunday following a morning weather delay that pushed tee times back by three hours and 45 minutes.
“I was extremely nervous starting off the round, just wanted to give myself a chance on the back nine,” said Haley. “Then I looked up on 14 and I had like a four shot lead and I almost it didn't make it worse, don't get me wrong, but haven't had that big of a lead in a really long time. It's just kind of like, ‘Don't screw it up from there.’ Luckily, I didn't.”
No, he didn’t.
Haley had an impressive junior career, winning the Texas State Amateur at 18 years old before playing collegiately at Georgia Tech. He would go on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship before graduating and turning professional in 2011.
Later this fall, Haley will return to the PGA TOUR and make his first TOUR start since the 2013 Wyndham Championship, where he finished T29, his best-ever finish on the PGA TOUR.
In addition to Haley, Argentina’s Augusto Núñez also crossed the #TOURBound threshold of 875 points after finishing T5 at 21-under. The 29-year-old from Yerba Buena, Argentina will be a TOUR rookie for the 2022-23 season, after originally turning professional in 2012. Núñez has been on a roll the last month, posting finishes of T5, T3, solo 6th and T3 in his last four starts. With 973 points, Núñez moved to No. 7 on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List after starting the week in 11th.
The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season continues Thursday with the first round of the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Peppers, hosted by Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Missouri.
- Austin Eckroat (2nd / -24) finished solo-second for the best finish of his Korn Ferry Tour career; Eckroat was the outright 36-hole leader and held a share of the 54-hole lead; he climbed the leaderboard in the second round with a career low 63, and followed it up with a 64 in the third round; Eckroat jumped 45 spots on the points list and now sits No. 39 with three regular season events remaining
- Eckroat, a 23-year-old native of Edmond, Oklahoma, turned professional in 2021 after playing four seasons at Oklahoma State University, where he was a four-time All-America honoree, helped the Cowboys win the 2018 NCAA Championship and finished No. 3 in the inaugural PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global Class of 2021
- Augusto Nunez (T5 / -21) is #TOURBound after finishing T5 and rising from 11th to No. 7 on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List
- Nunez entered the final round T3 after playing the first three rounds at 10-under with just one bogey on the first 54 holes; he carded a final-round 1-under 70, securing his fourth consecutive finish of T6 or better
- Michael Kim (3rd / -23) placed solo-third, his best finish in a Korn Ferry Tour event since a T3 at the 2015 AdventHealth Championship
- Cole Hammer (T7 / -20) recorded his first career top-10 finish in his third start of the Korn Ferry Tour; he shot a career low round of 63 in the second round and followed it up with a 7-under 64 Saturday; Hammer claimed the No. 5 ranking in the PGA TOUR University Class of 2022
- The Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS is the 20th of 23 regular season events on the 26-event 2022 Korn Ferry Tour schedule; the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded at the regular season finale, the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna (August 11-14), and an additional 25 TOUR cards will be awarded following the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, which conclude with the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance (September 1-4)
- This week’s purse is $750,000, with $135,000 going to the champion; the champion will also receive 500 Korn Ferry Tour points
- All 2022 Korn Ferry Tour regular season events feature a minimum purse of $750,000, a 25 percent increase from last season, and will boast minimum purses of $1 million in 2023 for a total increase of 66.7 percent from 2021 to 2022