ST. PETERSBURG, FL (January 8, 2017) -- On a windy and cold day with temperatures in the upper 30's Hayden Buckley was able to edge out 36-hole leader Peyton Wilhoit to capture the New Year's Invitational.
"This was really the first big win of my career," Buckley said. "There were a lot of good players and some big name players in the tournament so it was definitely a big win for me. Just a great way to start the year."
The win was even more significant for Buckley because it comes on the heels of missing three months with a torn back muscle. Buckley sustained the injury over the summer and missed the first half of his fall season at Missouri.
Buckley shot a final-round 2-over 74 to Wilhoit's 75 on a day in which not a single round in the 60's was recorded. Buckley finished with a 6-under total of 282 while Wilhoit, a sophomore at Southern Illinois, finished two shots behind at 4-under.
During the final round there were two moments that swung the pendulum Buckley's way. The first moment came on the 10th hole at St. Petersburg Country Club when the Tiger junior chipped in for birdie from just short of the green. Moment number two came a short time later when Buckley rolled in a birdie putt on the 16th that offered him some padding down the stretch.
The final round however did not come without some tense moments, even if they were self inflicted and humorous.
"I looked at the scoreboard for the first time on the 18th tee box and I misread it bad. I saw one player had an eight next to his name and I thought it was 8-under and the scoreboard was in the shade so I couldn't see that the numbers were black instead of red," a laughing Buckley said afterwards.
Due to the misread Buckley thought he needed an eagle on the par-5 final hole just to tie. Fortunately, despite forcing his hand with a driver and three-wood approach, Buckley was able to par the hole and secure the victory.
"It was a lot of fun this week," said Buckley. "I think everyone had a lot of fun and it was a great tournament."
Middle Tennessee State's Chip Thomas finished in a tie for third at 2-under with Harrison Shih, the 2016 Ivy League Player of the Year at Columbia. The pair finished four shots behind the lead. Seton Hall senior Lloyd Jefferson Go rounded out the top-five at 1-under par after shooting a final-round 1-under 71 which was one of the lowest of the day.
Darin Goldstein captured the mid-amateur title after an impressive final-round 71 closed the door on Joe Alfieri. Goldstein's 71 gave him a 291 total which edged Alfieri by two shots.