Hakula impresses with opening 68
January 07, 2020
By Laury Livsey, PGATOURLA.COM
- January 07, 2020
- Hakula has recorded one victory in 38 career starts on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)o
HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida—There are a few places Finland’s Toni Hakula would prefer to be this week than at PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s Qualifying Tournament at Mission Inn Resort and Club.
“You’d rather not be here obviously. I had my chances to play well enough last season (on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica) to not have to come here—plenty of times—but I deserve to be here just like anybody else,” said Hakula, a Helsinki native who played college golf at the University of Texas. Hakula showed Tuesday he wants back on the Tour, opening the tournament with a 4-under 68 to take the opening-round lead. Hakula leads six players who are a stroke back. Darkness set in before five players could finish their first rounds. They will complete their first rounds early Wednesday.
Hakula, winner of the 2018 Bupa Match Play for his lone PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win, finished 72nd on the 2019 Order of Merit, with the top-60 players retaining their cards. He was in solid form early, getting off to a quick start, with a birdie on No. 2, when he canned a 25-foot putt in brisk conditions.
“That was pretty big and great to start off. Nothing else really dropped after that,” Hakula said of his work on the greens.
Following three consecutive pars, Hakula bogeyed No. 6 when he flew his approach shot over the green and couldn’t get up and down, for his only bogey of the day. Three more pars ensued, leaving him even par at the turn. The back nine was a different story for Hakula, as he birdied the 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th holes.
“I hit the ball very well. I could have putted much better. I felt the greens were kind of tough to putt on. They’re kind of slow,” Hakula explained after his round. “It’s been wet, and they’re still very slopey. It’s hard to be aggressive and have them take a lot of break at the same time.” Although he didn’t make as many putts as he would have liked—name a player who does—Hakula was more than satisfied with his ball-striking.
“I hit it so good. I missed only one green all day, and same with fairways,” he added.
Did you know Toni Hakula has played in 38 career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournaments, making exactly half of his cuts, recording eight top 25s, two top-10s and one victory (2018 Bupa Match Play)?
How the Qualifying Tournament Works
There are 109 players who started in the field this week. John Coultas withdrew prior to the start of the tournament due to a wrist injury. South Africa’s Justin Harding withdrew following his round, and Canadian Adrian Singh was disqualified at the completion of his round, leaving 106 players in the field. Below is a breakdown of the various rewards players can earn this week:
Exempt for the entire 2020 season
2nd through 12th (no ties)
Fully exempt for the first half of the 2020 season
13th through 35th (plus ties)
Conditionally exempt for the first half of the 2020 season
France’s Jeremy Gandon qualified for the 2019 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada while he was still an amateur, finishing his college career at Kansas State. Last summer, Gandon played in 11 Tour events, making five cuts and finishing 64th on the Order of Merit, four spots outside the cutoff that would have allowed him to keep his membership card. His 69 came via six birdies and three bogeys.
Kyler Tate played in four PGA TOUR Latinoamérica events late in the 2019 season, making three of four cuts, including a pair of ties for 27th—at the Diners Club Peru Open and the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational.
Kyler Tate began his college career at the University of Florida before transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando for the final three years of college.
This is only the second PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour start by Raymond Knoll, who opened the tournament with a 3-under 69. His only other appearance came in an official event, the PGA TOUR’s John Deere Classic. Knoll shot rounds of 74-71 at TPC Deere Run in 2014 to miss the cut.
Syracuse native John Clare missed qualifying for the Mackenzie Tour in 2018, and he unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the European Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019. This is his first attempt on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
John Clare began his tournament sitting at 1-over through three holes. He made four birdies to finish that opening nine and added birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, his 10th and 11th holes before giving two strokes back with bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes.
Finland’s Toni Hakula attempted to maintain his 2020 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica playing privileges by playing in the Copa Samsung Dev Series Final, a tournament in Lima, Peru in mid-December. That tournament presented 10 exempt membership cards to the top finishers. Hakula shot rounds of 70-70-72-70 to tie for 10th, missing earning full status by a stroke. “I played really well at the Dev Series Final in Peru a few weeks ago, but I felt like I left so much out there that it was a disappointment to miss out by just one. I felt like I played much better than 6-under for four days,” he said.
A year ago, Neal Ajubita earned his PGA TOUR Latinoamérica status by winning this event. He suffered through an injury-plagued 2019 season and is back trying to qualify anew. Ajubita got off to a slow start, with a double bogey on his opening hole and added three more bogeys and 14 pars the rest of the way. He shot a 5-over 77.“It was frustrating to come here, but I knew I was playing well enough that it shouldn’t be an issue to come here and get the job done.” –Toni Hakula
“It was freezing this morning. Honestly, I looked and it was 45 (degrees) when I left the hotel. I figured it would warm up so fast that it wouldn’t be that bad. I got to the range and had on Under Armor, a golf shirt, my jacket and I put an extra jacket on. So, I had four layers on—plus a beanie. It’s not supposed to be like this.” –Toni Hakula
“It was cold. But I know the guys in Finland would be laughing at me. There would be guys playing in shorts if they were here.” –Toni Hakula
“I like it. It sets up well, with a lot of fade tee shots. I like to hit a fade. There are a couple of holes here and there that kind of don’t fit my eye, but I got through them pretty easily. As long as I do that the rest of the week, I’ll be good to go.” –John Clare
“I’ve gotten better over the last couple of years, getting your butt kicked and figuring out what makes guys good.” –John Clare
“This morning certainly took a little longer than we thought, me and my caddie. Growing up [in Syracuse], you’re used to it. You can prepare for it, and you at least know what it feels like.” –John Clare on his early tee time and the 45-degree temperatures that greeted him
“This course is pretty demanding. You have to stay focused, shot by shot and not worry a lot about the score.” –Jeremy Gandon
“It was my first year (as a pro), and it was a good experience no matter what.” –Jeremy Gandon on his rookie season playing on the Mackenzie Tour, where he finished 64th on the Order of Merit
Tournament Fast Fact
This is the third consecutive year Mission Inn’s El Campeon Course has hosted a U.S. Qualifying Tournament for PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. A year ago, American Neal Ajubita was the medalist. In 2018, MJ Maguire won the tournament.
First-Round Weather Report
Cold and windy in the morning. Temperature was 45 when the round began. High reached 73. Wind W at 8-12 mph.