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Brandon Harkins captures first Korn Ferry Tour victory at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club

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Brandon Harkins captures first Korn Ferry Tour victory at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club

    Written by Zach Dirlam @KornFerryTour

    GREAT ABACO, The Bahamas – Brandon Harkins wondered whether he would ever win a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event.

    The 35-year-old California State University-Chico graduate came close (twice) in 2017, his rookie year on the Korn Ferry Tour which saw him earn PGA TOUR membership at season’s end. In the final round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club, Harkins’ 179th start in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event, the Walnut Creek, California native erased a two-stroke deficit across the final three holes of regulation and prevailed over two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner Zecheng Dou in a playoff.

    Harkins celebrated the victory with a beer shower courtesy of Roberto Díaz, who concluded his own long, winding journey to the winner’s circle last year. Harkins’ wife, Rachel, could not attend. The couple celebrated the birth of their second son, Hunter, a month ago, so Rachel was needed at home rather than in The Bahamas alongside Harkins.

    Immediately after tapping in the winning par putt on the second playoff hole, Harkins’ only thoughts were of his family back home.

    “It's unbelievable. I'm starting to get a little bit emotional,” Harkins said. “This is for my wife and my two boys at home. My wife means the world to me, and she is the most supportive person I've ever met. She just always pushes me to be better, and she's the best mom to our boys (Jackson and Hunter). This win, it feels great, but you know what, it's for them, it's for my family, my mom, my brother, everyone.

    “Can't wait to get home and give them a big hug.”

    Harkins, who turned professional in 2010, had his first brush with victory at the 2013 The Great Waterway Classic on PGA TOUR Canada, when he shot a 10-under 62 in the final round and lost by a stroke. The next came at the Korn Ferry Tour’s 2017 Country Club de Bogota Championship, where he bogeyed three of the final six holes and missed a playoff by one stroke. Later that season, Harkins shot a 4-under 66 in the final round of the Ellie Mae Classic, only to see Martin Piller take the title by a stroke with a 6-under 64.

    And despite a birdie-eagle finish at the 2020 The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar, Harkins finished four strokes behind the champion, Jared Wolfe, in solo second.

    “There’s been weeks where I felt like I've played pretty darn good and haven't won,” Harkins said. “Playing the PGA TOUR is great, it's what we all strive to do, but, with that said, everyone wants to win, and this is my first big win out here. This means a lot to me. I will never forget this.”

    On the back nine Wednesday, Harkins followed consecutive birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 with a bogey at the par-4 15th. The dropped shot put him two strokes behind Dou, a fellow 2017 Korn Ferry Tour graduate who converted two previous 54-hole leads into victories.

    As Dou put his tee shot in the penalty area at the par-4 16th and missed a short par putt, Harkins saved par from the front greenside bunker. As Dou hit a fairway wood from the right rough and faded it into the penalty area at the par-5 18th, eventually making another bogey, Harkins found the fairway off the tee, played his next two shots from the short grass and two-putted for a playoff-forcing par.

    The two went back to the 18th tee and made two-putt pars on the first playoff hole. The second time around on No. 18 tee, Dou drove it in the penalty area, took a drop, and hit into the penalty area again, all but ending his title aspirations.

    Harkins flirted with the penalty area off the tee – enough to make him nervous on the walk to his ball – but avoided disaster. The Scottsdale, Arizona resident “chipped” a 7-iron down the fairway, landed a 5-iron on the green, and two-putted up the hill to seal the win.

    “I just told myself all day [that] I believed in my ability and my talent, and I just really tried to focus on sticking to my process and playing my game, and seeing how we stood at the end,” Harkins said. “It's a lot easier said than done when you get in the heat of things, but, for the most part, I did a really nice job of that today, and I owe a lot of credit to my caddie. He's been doing an unbelievable job with me, and he keeps me very calm and we're having fun out there.”

    The victory moves Harkins to the top of the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points Standings, 21 points ahead of last week’s winner, Akshay Bhatia, who missed the cut. Harkins earned 500 points for this week’s win, and 21 points for a T33 in the season opener.

    Harkins’ first career win also came with quite a bonus: honorary membership at The Abaco Club, presented personally by 2011 The Open Championship winner Darren Clarke.

    While Harkins is hoping to return to the PGA TOUR at season’s end rather than beginning preparations for a title defense in 2023, he intends to take advantage of the perk. After all, Harkins has to show his family where he became a Korn Ferry Tour champion.

    “One hundred percent, we will be back,” Harkins said. “It's such a beautiful place. I know my family will love it.”

    The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season continues next Thursday, February 3 with the opening round of the Panama Championship.

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