Seconds after helping to present Bud Cauley the championship trophy at the Hotel Fitness Championship, Rich Beem, the winner of the 2002 PGA Championship, had this to say: There’s no doubt you’re going to win a bunch of championships on the PGA Tour. And I think I say this for everybody: I hope we don’t see you back here anytime soon.
By winning the Hotel Fitness Championship, which was in its second year at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills Golf Club, Cauley pocketed $180,000 and secured his PGA Tour card for next season.
He shot a final-round 7-under 65 to finish at 20-under, one stroke better than Colt Knost, who lipped a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole that would have forced a playoff.
Yeah, it was so much fun today, Cauley said. I’ve had some chances in the past and obviously haven’t gotten it done. But it was so much fun to be out on a Sunday afternoon, hitting the ball well, making putts and competing to win. It was a blast.
The four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals, which began at Sycamore Hills, decides 25 such cards for next season.
Cauley finished tied for fifth place at the Hotel Fitness Championship last year at 17- under, three strokes back of champion Trevor Immelman, yet he wound up getting his tour card. This year, on the PGA Tour, he played in 19 events, making the cut in nine, finishing in the top 10 once and earning $647,886.
I’ve known I’m capable of playing like this and expected this of myself, said Cauley, 24, who is from Daytona Beach, Florida, and played for the University of Alabama.
Not everything goes perfectly to plan, but I came into these four events with a great attitude and felt like I was playing well. This will give me confidence coming into next year and hopefully I can win another one on the big tour.
Cauley came into the day tied for fourth place at 13-under, two strokes behind the leader, Knost. I felt good coming out here today, Cauley said. I got in a good rhythm on the driving range and felt good warming up. I knew I had to get off to a good start. I knew I probably needed to be about 3-under through the first four holes to be in contention somehow.
Indeed, Cauley birdied his first three holes, and five of his first six, to put himself atop the leader board at the 7,318-yard course.
I played great, but Bud played awesome. I can’t really say anything, said Knost, 29, who shot a 68 and earned $108,000. Bud shot 7-under and the conditions were awesome. It was definitely gettable and I played great, but I got off to a little bit of a shaky start. I was nervous and started off with bogey on the first hole. But I made a double and a bogey all week; I played great all week.
Knost ranked 52nd on the Web.com Tour this season with $84,559 in earnings in 19 tournaments. He also secured a tour card with his performance in Fort Wayne.
Greg Owen placed third at 16-under following a 70.
Cauley, whose caddie, Mike Bester, wore a TinCaps baseball cap – he went to a game last week – hadn’t won a tournament since he was in college. This championship was particularly gratifying for Cauley after suffering a shoulder injury on a tee shot in the third round of the John Deere Classic in July.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to play that Sunday, but I did and luckily that decision didn’t come back to haunt me, said Cauley, who placed 52nd at 7-under in that tournament. When I was coming down, my shoulder came out of the socket and went back in. It hadn’t bothered me all year or that day. It was a normal swing.
I was a miserable person, just having to go home and knowing I had been playing well. It being out of my control was frustrating. Then it was a (five-week) rehab and trying to get back out here as fast as possible.