Rookie report: Young shines at Sanderson; Buckley thrills local fans
October 04, 2021
By Zach Dirlam, PGATOUR.COM
- October 04, 2021
- Wake Forest alum Cameron Young finished runner-up at the Sanderson Farms Championship in his second PGA TOUR start as a member. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Monday qualifiers should soon be a thing of the past for Cameron Young.
The 24-year-old from Scarborough, New York, who did not even have Korn Ferry Tour status 14 months ago, came within one stroke of his first PGA TOUR victory last Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship, ultimately finishing one stroke behind Sam Burns, a 2018 Korn Ferry Tour alum. A disastrous bogey at the par-5 14th, the fourth-easiest hole of the tournament, may have cost Young a chance at a playoff, but he had plenty of reasons to celebrate a T2 finish.
The first reward Young will reap is a spot in this week’s Shriners Children’s Open, something his place within the Korn Ferry Tour category of the Priority Ranking would not grant him. Among the 25 players who earned PGA TOUR cards via the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour combined Regular Season, Young finished 17th on the Points List, putting him 33rd in the 50-man priority ranking. As of Monday morning, the first alternate for the Shriners Children’s Open was Taylor Pendrith, No. 13 in the priority ranking. Without a top-10 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, Young would be headed to the Monday qualifier.
“Absolutely that’s a huge relief,” Young said in his post-round press conference. “Happy to get to go play, happy to not have to play the Monday.”
Young will have to string together some more top-10s to play his way into the premier fields this fall with his current priority ranking. Not exactly an ideal spot to be in, but Young thrived in a similar position last summer (more on that shortly). And while there is a chance Young winds up in a few more Monday qualifiers, the 245 FedExCup points from last week’s T2 should vault him up the priority ranking following the first reshuffle, which will occur at the conclusion of The RSM Classic next month.
Cameron Young gets up-and-down from rough for birdie at Sanderson Farms
Funnily enough, the very thing Young is hoping to avoid for the remainder of the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season is exactly how he finds himself on TOUR in the first place.
Holding Forme Tour status but having nowhere to make starts, Young entered the Monday qualifier for the 2020 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna. Young fired an 8-under 64 for medalist honors, finished T11 in his first Korn Ferry Tour start, and earned Special Temporary Membership three weeks later with consecutive finishes of T14, T6, and T2. Back-to-back wins in May 2021 gave him fully exempt status.
The 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna served as the Korn Ferry Tour’s Regular Season finale, bringing Young’s pursuit of a PGA TOUR card full circle.
Young’s incredible run to the TOUR brought several fascinating storylines to the surface. His father, David, is the head professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. His mother, Barbara, was an outstanding player in her own right and frequently caddied for Young amid his dominant amateur career on the Metropolitan Golf Association circuit. Young’s current caddie and close friend, Scott McKean, quit his job at a cybersecurity company to caddie full-time.
For two-and-a-half seasons at Wake Forest, Young and another member of the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour graduating class, rising PGA TOUR star Will Zalatoris, were teammates. As the two of them sat inside the top-five through 36 holes last week, Zalatoris retold a story from their time together at Wake Forest, as if to inform anyone unfamiliar with Young that his sudden rise is no fluke.
“We had a kid come in for a recruiting trip and at Old Town, where we play, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 ends right by – or No. 3 ends right by the first tee, and so (Young) caught up with us on No. 4,” Zalatoris said. “Literally changing the shoes out of his trunk of his car, (he) hopped out, eagled the first, chipped in on the second for birdie, made a mistake and made par on 5, and then I think he chipped in one more time and made a couple 20-footers. He made six 3s in a row. That’s just Cam. He didn’t hit a single ball warming up, didn’t hit a single putt, made six 3s and (was) like, ‘Okay, let’s go grab dinner.’”
Take it from Zalatoris, Cameron Young is here to stay.
He will not be the only PGA TOUR newcomer playing the Shriners Children’s Open by virtue of a top-10 either. Here is a look at some other 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour graduates who shined in the first two fall events.
Cameron Young holes birdie on No. 13 at Sanderson Farms
Playing from Tupelo, Mississippi, the Sanderson Farms Championship was a homecoming of sorts for Hayden Buckley. In fact, Buckley said he grew up playing Country Club of Jackson. The local knowledge served Buckley well, as he finished T4 in his fifth career PGA TOUR start.
“It’s what you dream of. You dream of playing on the highest level of golf in your home state, right in your backyard,” Buckley said. “I know at the end of the day we are entertainers and there’s so many people that came out to watch, so it’s nice to give them something to cheer for. I had a couple of guys that were yelling a little too loud, but it’s just nice to see so many people supporting me and see what I’ve been doing for the last few years.
“I moved away, I went off to college in Missouri and didn’t see a lot of friends. I kind of lost connection with a lot of friends and some family, and it’s nice to see all my hard work paying off and for them to see it pay off as well.”
Like Young, Buckley’s priority ranking would have him on the alternate list for the Shriners Children’s Open this week. The last time Buckley found himself in such a position, he won the 2021 LECOM Suncoast Classic for fully exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour. But a top-10 in his backyard means Buckley won’t be waiting for anyone to withdraw this week.
Hayden Buckley makes birdie on No. 15 in Round 4 at Sanderson Farms
The first player to earn the Three-Victory Promotion from the Korn Ferry Tour since Wesley Bryan in 2016, Mito Pereira picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2020-21 PGA TOUR season.
The Chilean took solo third at the Fortinet Championship three weeks ago for his fourth top-six in his last seven PGA TOUR starts, including a T4 at the 2020 Olympic Men’s Golf Competition. Pereira followed the podium finish in Napa, California with a T31 at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
“To start well the season, it’s powerful,” Pereira said after the final round of the Fortinet Championship. “You can play through the season with less stress, so it’s a great start of the year and I hope I can just keep going.”
Mito Pereira chips it close from rough to finish with birdie at Fortinet Championship
As Jeff Eisenband wrote in his Sanderson Farms Championship analysis for PGATOUR.com, Sahith Theegala was the tournament darling for three days, holding at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds.
Theegala, a three-time All-American who swept the 2020 NCAA Division I player of the year awards (Haskins Award, Ben Hogan Award, Jack Nicklaus Award) in his final season at Pepperdine University, carried a one-stroke lead into last Sunday’s final round before he slipped to a T8 finish. Three bogeys across a four-hole stretch (after just one bogey in his first 63 holes) dropped Theegala out of contention.
“It was a fantastic week,” Theegala said after the final round. “I did so much good stuff this week and I’ll just try and build off the really good stuff and keep learning. A lot of it was mental today. It wasn’t even my game at all. It will be nice to have a day to reflect over the week, because it happened so quick.”
Originally entered for the Monday qualifier, Theegala can instead reflect during a practice round in Las Vegas, as his top-10 put him in the Shriners Children’s Open field alongside Buckley and Young.
Sahith Theegala reaches in two for birdie at Sanderson Farms
David Lipsky opened his 2021-22 PGA TOUR season with a T22 at the Fortinet Championship, but as of Monday morning he was fourth on the alternate list for Shriners Children’s Open.
Taylor Moore posted a T17 at the Sanderson Farms Championship with rounds of 66 and 68 on the weekend; he earned his TOUR card with the No. 11 spot in the priority ranking, just high enough to get him in the Shriners Children’s Open field.