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Jeremy Paul holds off late rallies, wins The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay

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Jeremy Paul during the final round of the The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Jeremy Paul during the final round of the The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

    Written by Staff

    GREAT EXUMA, The Bahamas– With back-to-back bogey-free 5-under 67s in the third and final rounds, Jeremy Paul held off Class of 2022 Korn Ferry Tour graduate Kevin Roy and 2023 NCAA Championship runner-up Ross Steelman Wednesday evening, as the 29-year-old German earned his first career Korn Ferry Tour win at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Paul entered 2024 with fully exempt status from a No. 56 finish on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List, his second consecutive top 75 finish. A victory, though, eluded him, with Paul’s best finish being a T3 at the 2022 Ascendant presented by Blue, roughly a 45-minute drive from his alma mater, University of Colorado.

    Now in his fourth season as a Korn Ferry Tour member, his season-opening victory positions Paul for his strongest run at a PGA TOUR card to this point in his career.

    “I’m super happy I was able to pull it off. It’s never easy playing with a lead,” Paul said. “Kevin (Roy) was making a lot of birdies down the stretch, so he made me work for it. I’m just super thrilled right now with all the work I’ve put in for so many years, and all the people who believe in me along the way that I can give back a little bit with this win.”

    Paul shared the 54-hole lead with Roy, but after the first three holes of the final round, the latter found himself three strokes off the lead.

    As Roy opened with a birdie, bogey and par, Paul made three consecutive birdies and added a fourth birdie at the par-5 ninth. Although Roy played a flawless back nine, including birdies on each of the final three holes, Paul maintained a clean scorecard with eight pars and what turned out to be the tournament-winning birdie at the par-5 15th.

    Paul played the final 43 holes without a bogey, enabling him to finish one stroke ahead of Roy, and two strokes ahead of Steelman, who closed in a 9-under 63 and tied the event’s 18-hole scoring record. Paul joined PGA TOUR winners Akshay Bhatia (2022) and Sungjae Im (2018) as the only winners of The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay who carded a bogey-free final round.

    Paul’s winning total – 17-under 271 – ranked second in tournament history, only behind Zecheng Dou’s 18-under 270 in 2019.

    Golf, as it turned out, was the easy part. Going to sleep as the 54-hole co-leader, however, was quite the challenge.

    “I didn’t sleep too well, honestly,” Paul said. “When you’re alone in your room and with your thoughts, that’s always the worst place. Once I got on the golf course, I honestly felt pretty comfortable. I knew I was hitting the ball really well, and it was all about not getting ahead. I think that was actually a benefit this course is very challenging (because) I was able to stay in the moment.

    “The most nerve wracking was the first tee shot, just because it’s an uncomfortable tee shot,” said Paul, who began working with a mental coach last season. “Once you get that tee shot in play, and I got off to a birdie start, it calmed me down a little bit."

    Paul’s journey to the Korn Ferry Tour began in the early 2010s, when he left Germany (he plays from Heidelberg) to play at Colorado.

    Late in the fall semester of his senior season in Boulder, Paul played his way through the 2016 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament (now PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry) as an amateur. A T72 finish at Final Stage left him with conditional status and an uphill climb to Korn Ferry Tour starts in 2017, so Paul remained an amateur and on the golf team at Colorado.

    Paul turned professional in April 2017 and accepted two sponsor exemptions, but missed cuts in both starts left him buried on the priority ranking. At the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open Benefitting KU Wichita Pediatrics in June, Paul finished T27 as a sponsor exemption, just enough to climb the priority ranking via the reshuffle and make nine more starts. By the end of the season, Paul had just four made cuts in 12 starts and stood 200th on the money list.

    It was back to square one.

    After three seasons on PGA TOUR Canada, Paul regained Korn Ferry Tour membership with a No. 10 finish on the circuit’s 2021 Order of Merit. A T11 finish at Final Stage of 2021 Q-School set Paul up for guaranteed starts and a successful 2022 season on the Korn Ferry Tour, which concluded with him at No. 37 on the Points List.

    Last season may have been a statistical regression (one top-10 compared to three in 2022, 12 missed cuts in 2023 compared to just nine the year before), but Paul’s confidence hardly wavered. With plenty of encouragement from his twin brother, Yannik, a DP World Tour winner and top 150 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, Jeremy stayed the course and remained patient as the 2024 season came into focus.

    “I knew I was putting in a lot of good work at home,” Paul said. “I knew my brother was doing good and our games are very similar, so I knew if he was able to have the success he’s having in Europe, there’s no reason why I can’t have success over here as well. Sometimes you’ve got to keep believing, and sometimes the route’s a little longer, but with him playing so well and us being able to practice together all the time, that really helped me, because I feel like my game’s there.

    “It’s obviously a long season… a win sets up really well to fulfill a dream of mine to become a PGA TOUR member at the end of the season.”

    Final-Round Notes

    • Class of 2022 Korn Ferry Tour graduate Kevin Roy (2nd/-16) matched his career-high finish in his 80th career start on the Korn Ferry Tour (2nd/2022 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open); his 16-under 272 tied the lowest 72-hole score by a runner-up at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay (2019/Ben Kohles and Steve LeBrun)
    • Ross Steelman (3rd/-15), who made eight starts last season after he earned and accepted Korn Ferry Tour membership with a No. 4 finish in the 2023 PGA TOUR University Ranking, tied the 18-hole tournament scoring record with a final-round 9-under 63 featuring an eagle at the par-5 first, eight birdies and a bogey at the par-4 10th
    • Steelman’s final-round 63 tied John Oda (2019/R1) for the lowest round in tournament history
    • Steelman had just one top-25 in 11 starts across the Korn Ferry Tour (eight) and PGA TOUR (three) after he turned professional following a runner-up finish at the 2023 NCAA Championship last May (T25/2023 Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank); he finished T28 at Final Stage of 2023 PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry for guaranteed starts in the first 12 events this season
    • Cristobal Del Solar (4th/-13), who finished No. 52 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List with four top-10s as a rookie, posted a career-high finish in his 26th start on Tour (previous: 5th/2023 NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank)
    • Class of 2022 Korn Ferry Tour graduate and United States Air Force veteran Kyle Westmoreland (5th/-12) matched his career-high finish on Tour in his 37th career start (5th/2023 UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH)
    • Second-year member Mason Andersen (T7/-10), who finished No. 36 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List, recorded his third top-10 in his last four starts (T2/2023 Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation; T18/2023 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship; T10/2023 Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance)
    • Noah Goodwin (T7/-10), who finished No. 110 on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Points List as a rookie and regained membership with a T14 at Final Stage of 2023 PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry, carded nine birdies in a final-round 6-under 66 for his second career top-10 on Tour (T4/2023 Compliance Solutions Championship)
    • Fred Biondi (T7/-10), the individual medalist at the 2023 NCAA Championship, posted his highest finish in 10 career Korn Ferry Tour starts (previous: T31/2023 BMW Charity Pro-Am); he earned and accepted Korn Ferry Tour membership last June following the 2023 NCAA Championship
    • Rookie Austin Hitt (T11/-9), who earned membership for the first time with a No. 4 finish in the 2023 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Totalplay Cup standings, closed with bogey-free 6-under 66 in his second career Korn Ferry Tour start (2023 Price Cutter Charity Championship/T44)
    • Harry Higgs (T14/-8) led the field with 24 total birdies for the week, including a field-leading 10 birdies as part of a final-round 8-under 64
    • Korn Ferry Tour winner and five-time FedExCup Playoffs qualifier Bud Cauley (T21/-7) completed his first PGA TOUR-sanctioned start since the 2020 Fortinet Championship/T14 with a final-round 4-under 68
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