FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Rookie Andrew Kozan made five birdies on the back nine en route to an 8-under 63 and his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory, winning the Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
Former BYU stars Patrick Fishburn and Peter Kuest both had turned in their highest finishes ever on the Korn Ferry Tour. Fishburn at 20-under par, tied for second place. Kuest ended the tournament at 19-under, tied for fifth place.
Two other former BYU stars, Danny Summerhays and Zac Blair, ended up tied for 30th place at 13-under par.
Kozan’s 63 finished tied the low round of the day (with Justin Suh and Zecheng Dou). It was also Kozan’s career-low round on the Korn Ferry Tour by two strokes, with his previous low round being a 65 in the second round of the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard back in February.
Kozan made three consecutive birdies at Nos. 2, 3, and 4, canceled out another at the par-5 seventh with a bogey at the par-4 eighth, then birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine (Nos. 11, 12, 13, 15, 16) and took the outright lead at 21-under par. Kozan nearly made birdies at the par-4 17th and 18th, but needed neither in the end, as Suh, Ashton Van Horne, and local hero Patrick Fishburn all finished one stroke behind at 20-under par.
Kozan, a 23-year-old in his first year out of Auburn University, began the day T13 and three strokes off the lead. While there have been bigger comebacks this season in terms of stroke deficits, no winner had entered the final round lower than T8.
“It’s insane to think about, especially what we’ve gone through as a team the last few months,” Kozan said. “To come out on top this week is really special, and it just means a lot to have my wife here and everyone back home supporting me the whole week.
“The time has definitely come. When it’s your time, it’s your time, and this was it.”
There was plenty to unpack from those carefully chosen words Sunday.
Kozan’s season truly began last September at First Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. The West Palm Beach, Florida native earned medalist honors and easily advanced to Second Stage. On the final hole at Plantation (Florida) Preserve Golf Course & Club, Kozan walked to the tee only needing a bogey to earn Korn Ferry Tour membership and advance to Final Stage. He certainly made it difficult on himself. Kozan hit a shot through the fairway, took an unplayable lie, and salvaged an up-and-down bogey.
“If I don’t make that putt on the last hole, who knows where I would be right now,” Kozan said. “There (are) so many different stages in life, especially in a golf career… learning when you go through the good and the bad, and learning what to get out of that is a huge help at this stage.”
Kozan entered the week with 11 consecutive missed cuts. The last time he played the weekend was early April at the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club. The slew of missed cuts followed what had been an impressive start to the season which featured a T15 at The Panama Championship and a T30 at The Honda Classic on the PGA TOUR.
The mid-season rut also forced Kozan to play almost every event, including the REX Hospital Open in early June. Kozan initially planned the skip the event and prepare for his wedding. Instead, Kozan played and missed a fifth straight cut.
“(His wife, Caylin) was super supportive; she totally understood,” Kozan said. “She wanted me to go play and not look back and say I wish I would’ve done that.”
With 15 missed cuts in 19 starts and a lone top-25 this year, Kozan entered the Utah Championship at No. 153 on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List. Only the top 100 retain conditional membership for next season, and only the top 156 would be guaranteed a spot in next week’s regular season finale, where 25 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded.
“A week ago we were trying to plan out if we had to go to Q-School or not,” said Kozan, who climbed all the way to No. 41 on the points list with his victory. “Now we have a chance to get a (PGA) TOUR card next week. It’s very special.”
While Suh finished T2, he became the 15th player to cross the #TOURBound threshold. Suh only needed a 2-way T22 to eclipse 875 points, which the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using as a fail-safe threshold for players to finish inside The 25 and earn a PGA TOUR card at regular season’s end. It will be the first trip to the TOUR for Suh, a 25-year-old Californian and former Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year at University of Southern California.
Sunday marked the seventh top-10 of Suh’s rookie season, with his previous season-high finish being a T5 at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS back in March.