Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga is closing in on his first PGA Tour card.
The 27-year-old Hoey, who played at USC, sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole to cap a five-under-par 65 and win the Visit Knoxville Open on the Korn Ferry Tour by one stroke over Norman Xiong and Chase Seiffert at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Hoey, whose only other professional victory came in the 2017 Freedom 55 Financial Championship on the Mackenzie PGA Tour Canada. “This is what we all work for. And I’m really enjoying it. I’m really happy to be out here and to have a chance to get onto the PGA Tour. I’m just really excited.
“(The closing birdie) was amazing. I hopefully can describe it as well as I can. But it was just like your heart’s racing, you can’t think straight, your head’s all over the place. I couldn’t control my hands. I just told myself to hit it down the line and see what happens. I had to make a birdie, hopefully force a playoff or something.
“I just told myself to stay patient all week, just shoot in the 60s and things will take care of themselves. And incredibly, that’s what happened.”
Hoey, who moved the No. 2 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list behind Ben Kohles, rattled off six birdies after making his lone bogey on the second hole, and recorded a winning score of 14-under-par 266. The top 30 players on the points list at the end of the season earn PGA Tour cards for next year.
Xiong, the 54-hole leader from Lake Elsinore and winner of the 2022 Wichita Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, closed with a bogey-free 69, while Seiffert birdied four of the last six holes to complete a 65.
Rafael Campos of Puerto Rico, who won the 2019 Bahamas Great Abaco Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour, shot a blistering, bogey-free 63 to finish two shots back in a tie for fourth with Colin Featherstone, who birdied the last hole for a 65, and Alejandro Tosti of Argentina, who had two late birdies in a 69.
Kristoffer Ventura of Norway highlighted his 65 with an eagle-3 on the fifth hole and also had three early birdies in a 65 that left him three behind in a tie for seventh with Jeremy Paul of Germany, who carded a bogey-free 65, and Logan McCallister, who made six birdies in a 66.
Jimmy Stanger birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 63 and was four strokes back in a big tie for 10th with Cristobal Del Solar of Chile, who bogeyed the second hole but then had six birdies in a 65; Spencer Cross, who eagled the fifth en route to a 66; Andrew Kozan, who had four birdies down the stretch in a 66; Dimi Papadatos of Australia, who birdied two of the last three holes for a 67, and Nelson Ledesma of Argentina, who was tied for the first-round lead at 63 and birdied two of the last three holes in the final round to wind up at 67.
Points leader Kohles posted a score of 71-69—139 and missed the cut by one stroke, the third time he has missed the weekend on the Korn Ferry Tour this season, to go along with his two victories.
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