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  • From No. 60 to champion as Hakula takes Bupa Match Play

  • Finland’s Toni Hakula holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the Bupa Match Play. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Finland’s Toni Hakula holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the Bupa Match Play. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico—In whatever free time Finland’s Toni Hakula has during the next few weeks as PGA TOUR Latinoamérica takes its annual summer break, the Austin, Texas, resident ought to think about writing thank-you notes to Chris Williams, Ryan Ruffels, Tyler McCumber, Derek Bard and Matthew Campbell. Those were the five players who made it possible for Hakula to not only get in the field for the first annual Bupa Match Play but to win the tournament. Oh, and Hakula had a little to do with the victory, as well.

    Late last week, Hakula figured he had missed his chance to play the Bupa Match Play, open to the top-60 available players on the Order of Merit. Hakula was No. 65 following the Quito Open, where he missed the cut. He had no path to Playa Paraíso Golf Club until the previously mentioned five players all ranked ahead of him skipped the tournament, paving the way for Hakula. It was just the opening he needed.

    In each of his six matches this week, the former University of Texas golfer had to beat an opponent seeded higher than him. Sunday, it was No. 25 Santiago Gomez falling to Hakula on the 18th hole of their morning, semifinals match, with Hakula making a four-foot par putt to halve the hole and take the 1-up victory. There was no such drama in the championship match. Hakula won the first hole against 31st-seeded Sebastián Saavedra and never trailed, winning the first hole and eventually closing the match on the 12th green, a 7-and-6 triumph.

    “It was pretty comfortable from the start. I know Sebastián didn’t have his best game. He missed a couple of putts that gave me a lot of momentum early on the front nine,” Hakula explained. “I had a fairly comfortable lead for most of the match, which made it easier to play in the sense I was in the lead but also because I know how good Sebastián is, and if I gave him one or two holes back it could have been a different story.”

    What Hakula authored this week played out according to the plot he wrote for himself when he didn’t think he would be playing.

    “I was disappointed for missing the cut by one in Ecuador, wondering if that was going to wreck my chances of making it here. Luckily, I did make it and it almost felt like bonus golf for me all week as the last guy here,” he said.

    Hakula was also pleased with how well he held up under the crucible of pressure, something he didn’t handle well earlier this season at the Molino Cañuelas Championship in Buenos Aires, a final-round 74 ruining any chance he had of winning.

    “I think the place I felt I needed to reacquaint myself with winning was in Buenos Aires. I was leading going into the last day. I played bad the last day and barely made the top 20 at the end (tied for 18th),” Hakula added. “That was a learning experience for me. I’ve played about 20 events down here altogether (actually 19) plus 10 in Canada (on the Mackenzie Tour), and I’ve never really been in contention. I knew the next time where it happened, I would handle it a lot better.”

    Hakula’s game held up just fine all week, especially Sunday, and there was no re-do of his Buenos Aires breakdown. In his six matches this week spread over four days, only his semifinal match against Gomez made it to the 18th hole. His other match victories ended at the 17th hole, the 16th hole, two at the 15th hole and the championship match at No. 12. Hakula was also efficient in his matches. Of the 108 regulation holes he could have played, he only needed 93 before hoisting the trophy.

    Toni Hakula’s Match Wins
    Defeated Ben Polland, 2 and 1
    Defeated Brad Gehl, 3 and 2
    Defeated Hunter Hamrick, 4 and 3
    Defeated Tommy Cocha, 5 and 3
    Defeated Santiago Gómez, 1-up
    Defeated Sebastián Saavedra, 7 and 6

    Quotable
    “This week, every single day, I got up on the first tee and felt comfortable, like I could win that match. And evidently I came out on top every time.” –Toni Hakula

    “It’s just a lot of confidence that I had, which is really cool to play with.” –Toni Hakula

    “It certainly felt that way playing the course so many times in such a short span. Hardly having any trouble with my game in any of my early matches gave me confidence, especially today in the semifinal and final, knowing that I haven’t made many mistakes all week.” –Toni Hakula

    “I was hardly ever out of position and felt comfortable on the tee boxes. The wind was kind of tricky with the trees, so I pretty much played a low stinger off the tee on every hole. That was a big key for me, keeping the ball in play and never really giving myself to make bogey.” –Toni Hakula

    “I felt like I got a little too caught up in the end result last week and didn’t play my best because of that. Having a tournament like this, where you don’t think about your score, it frees you up off the tee and on your iron shots. It just feels a lot more free playing that way.” –Toni Hakula

    “I just need to figure out how to make that happen in a regular stroke-play event, as well.” –Toni Hakula

    “[This win] certainly puts me in a lot better situation (on the Order of Merit). I’ve played some good golf this year, I just haven’t had the results I wanted. This puts me in a lot better position going into the fall.” –Toni Hakula

    “I had a goal at the beginning of the year to be top five on the money list like everybody does because that’s the ultimate goal, to move on to the Web.com Tour. After this week, it’s certainly looking a lot more realistic.” –Toni Hakula, who moved to No. 10 with his victory

    Purse Breakdown

    Position

    Player

    Earnings

    Winner

    Toni Hakula

    $30,000

    2nd Place

    Sebastián Saavedra

    $15,000

    3rd/4th Place

    Charlie Bull

    Santiago Gomez

    $10,000

    Quarterfinals

    Tommy Cocha

    Nicolas Echavarría

    Harrison Endycott

    Skyler Finnell

    $4,000

    Third Round

    Benjamin Alvarado

    Juan Alvarez

    Clodomiro Carranza

    Ricardo Celia

    Andres Gallegos

    Hunter Hamrick

    MJ Maguire

    Matias Simaski

    $1,500

    Second Round

    Tyson Alexander

    Hernan Borja

    Cristobal Del Solar

    David Denlinger

    Colin Featherstone

    Nicolo Galletti

    Brad Gehl

    Matt Gilchrest

    Andreas Halvorsen

    Harry Higgs

    Chris Killmer

    Rodrigo Lee

    Horacio Leon

    Leandro Marelli

    Marcelo Rozo

    Austin Smotherman

    $1,000

    First Round

    Thomas Baik

    Rafael Becker

    Michael Buttacavoli

    Peter Creighton

    Michael Davan

    Rafael Echenique

    Mario Galiano

    Santiago Gavino

    Maxi Godoy

    Blair Hamilton

    Chase Hanna

    Juan Pablo Hernandez

    Jaime Lopez Rivarola

    Juan Pablo Luna

    Ignacio Marino

    Bryan Martin

    Jake McBride

    Nahum Mendoza III

    Jose Narro

    Joe Parkinson

    Ben Polland

    Dalan Refioglu

    Alexandre Rocha

    Gonzalo Rubio

    Jonathan Sanders

    Juan Carlos Serrano

    Mark Silvers

    Eric Steger

    Jason Thresher

    Shad Tuten

    Curtis Yonke

    a-Santiago Castilla

    $500

    Final Results
    (60) Toni Hakula, Finland, defeated (31) Sebastián Saavedra, Argentina, 7 and 6

    Final-Round Weather Report
    Sunny, hot and humid. High of 89, with a heat index of 100. Wind variable at 10-15 mph.

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