CALGARY, ALTA. — For the first time in 2019, 72 holes wasn’t enough as Hayden Buckley needed extra holes to claim the ATB Financial Classic title for his first professional victory. Buckley made par on the first playoff hole to defeat Sam Fidone.
“Sam is a great dude to play with, and we battled all day,” said Buckley, who moves to the fifth spot on the Order of Merit with the victory. “I’ve been close so many times, and finally finishing it off was something I really liked.”
Beginning the day with a three-stroke lead over Fidone, Buckley made two birdies in his first three holes to create some separation. Fighting back, the tournament quickly became a two-man race as Fidone played hole Nos. 2-7 in 5-under par to get within one of Buckley heading into the back nine.
“It felt like I was due for a good ball-striking day,” said Buckley, who was named the University of Missouri Male Athlete of the Year after a four win 2017-18 senior campaign. “I haven’t really hit it well all week. I’ve hit it good enough to compete, but I haven’t hit it where I wanted to, and I did that today.”
While Buckley was striking it well, but failing to convert on the greens, the opposite could be said for Fidone, who made a 40-foot putt for par on No. 10 after driving his ball into the fescue.
Buckley called hole No. 15 a “turning point,” when, for the first time of the day, his name was no longer at the top of the leaderboard.
“I had 95 yards in, hit it over the green and made bogey as (Fidone) made birdie and jumped ahead of me,” said the 23-year old. “I got a little flustered because I wasn’t sure how that happened. I got a little momentum, and the ball started flying farther. It was a pretty emotional day.”
With Buckley comfortably on the green on the 17th, looking at a 12-foot birdie chance, Fidone flew the green from 75 yards and left himself a tricky pitch, short-sided with the green sloping away from him.
Buckley watched as Fidone hit his chip well past the pin, to 50 feet.
“I’ve always been taught, and a lot of guys will say that you always expect somebody to make it,” said the Tupelo, Miss., native, whose premonition came to life as Fidone buried the putt and delivered a massive fist pump. “It kind of hurt me right before I had to hit my putt next. It went in and I immediately thought, ‘Do it right back to him.’”
Buckley’s try narrowly missed, and after the two players made two-putt pars on No. 18, that set the stage for a sudden-death playoff.
“I haven’t been in the final group this year. I’ve been close but had a lot of experience in the past three or four weeks competing and falling short so many times,” said Buckley. “There were times on No. 18 and in the playoff I still felt some nerves.”
Buckley was unable to make his 10-foot birdie try on the first extra hole, leaving Fidone with a slippery five-footer to extend the playoff. He was unable to convert.
“It was one of those days that didn’t feel like I went out and got it but did enough to get it done,” said Buckley. “Winning with a par in the playoff, it didn’t feel like I won it, but it was good enough.”
While the finish was Buckley’s first win as a professional, he has knocked on the door many times this season, finishing in the top 10 in five of nine starts.
“A lot of confidence has been built up over the past year,” said Buckley. “My senior year in college I had a good stretch, winning four out of nine tournaments, and I came close a few more times, so it’s not like all of a sudden that I feel like I belong. I’ve felt like I’ve belonged for a long time.”
Due to a birdie on the final hole, Taylor Pendrith picked up his fourth consecutive Canada Life Canadian Player of the Week Award as the highest Canadian finisher. It is his fifth honor of the season. Pendrith finished the event tied for fifth, marking the fourth consecutive event the 28-year old has finished within the top five.
- The runner-up finish is Sam Fidone’s first top-10 of the 2019 season, moving him all the way from 113th on the Order of Merit to 15th. The Luftkin, Texas, native finished the 2018 season in sixth place on the year-end rankings.
- Only three players have finished ahead of Lorens Chan on the past three leaderboards combined. Following a win at the HFX Pro-Am and a runner-up finish at the 1932byBateman Open, Chan made birdie on his final hole of the day to finish alone in third place.
- Paul Barjon took advantage of a rare missed cut from Jake Knapp. Breaking par each day in Calgary, Barjon finished the event alone in fourth place to reclaim the No. 1 spot on the Order of Merit.
- Five Canadians, Taylor Pendrith (tied for fifth), James Love (tied for 12th), Wes Heffernan (tied for 14th), James Allenby and Stuart Macdonald (tied for 18th) finished inside the top 20.
“It was a long day. I actually got off to a good start today, 2-under through three, but it was one of those days where I also made two bogeys from the middle of the fairway with a wedge and had two three-putts down the stretch that changed the momentum. I just stayed patient and told my caddie I had to stay patient all day.” – Hayden Buckley
“I thought I had it in the bag with a few holes left, and all of a sudden I made bogey and he makes birdie. Being one down with a couple to play was hard, but luckily I came out on top in the playoff.” – Hayden Buckley on his battle with Sam Fidone
“Something we talked about all day was keeping it in play, and I tried to get as many birdie putts as possible. Somewhere in there, I kind of lost it and three-putted for par on the par 5, No. 13, and I saw it starting to slip away. Some of those holes on the back are hard to make birdie on, but 15 was the turning point in the match.” – Hayden Buckley on conversations he had with his caddie
“[Saturday] was the big day. Shooting 7-under, a few guys came up to me and said how impressed they were with that, and I was impressed with that, too. It was one of those days where I made everything I looked at. It’s a four-day tournament for a reason, and it all counts and it all adds up in the end.” – Hayden Buckley
“It’s been a mix of a lot of good ball-striking and waiting on the putter. I switched putters in Toronto and bought one out of a store and started putting well. I actually switched midway through the pro-am. I got comfortable with it, and I still have days where I don’t make many putts, and I still have days where I make a lot of putts. That’s just how it is.” – Hayden Buckley
“You can wait years and never get a win, it’s been a year and a half since I got my last win, but it’s pretty bittersweet thinking about this whole week and how different the weather was.” – Hayden Buckley
“It makes it all worth it, all the early wake-ups and extra practice, and hopefully we can keep going. I’m really looking forward to the end of the year now.” – Hayden Buckley
“Obviously, jumping up the Order of Merit is great, and I want to finish it off and chase down the guys at the top. The end goal is just to do what I can to get to the next level, and this is a step in the right direction.” – Hayden Buckley
“The weather panned out for us; it wasn’t terribly tough.” – Hayden Buckley
“The first hole I actually made a really good two-putt par from about 50 feet. Then on No. 3, after making birdie on No. 2, it was a tucked pin, and I wasn’t really going after the pin, but I hit it to 10 feet and made it. Getting that out of the way with a few par-5sand easy holes coming up, I knew if I shot an under-par round I was probably going to win.” – Hayden Buckley
“That wasn’t going through my head at the time, but I knew if I shot under-par, I’d have a great chance to win. I didn’t make the putts, but I hit the ball so well.” – Hayden Buckley
“It was a much nicer day than [Saturday]. The wind in the morning was rough, and it kind of stayed steady throughout the day. Temperatures were definitely a lot colder [Saturday]. I have sweatpants on under here, so maybe that was why I’m a bit warmer.” – Hayden Buckley
“You know, it was a little easier today, maybe the pins were a bit tougher, but this place is amazing year in and year out. I’ve played this event three times, and every time I’ve played here the greens are immaculate, the fairways are perfect, the rough is long, it plays tough and it’s a good test.” – Sam Fidone
“When you’re grinding out a 50-footer for par, you’re not expecting to make it every time, you’re just hoping you don’t make a double (bogey). You don’t want to three-putt those things. I just needed them, and I happened to make them. I don’t believe the percentage on those would be more than 2 percent to make, and the fact that I made both of them speaks to a lot of tenacity, a lot of grind that I’ve been putting up all year. If you saw those fist pumps, I was pretty excited.” – Sam Fidone
“When I was walking off No. 17, I told my caddie that it was the best putt I’ve ever made.” – Sam Fidone
“It’s a tough situation, I’ve been in plenty of playoffs before, and I tend to play them very aggressive. I ended up having about the same distance I had on No. 18 in regulation. I ended up hitting an 8-iron instead of a 8, so mine didn’t get up the hill and came back down. It left me with a 30-foot putt. It’s a lot of pressure. When you’re playing in sudden-death, it’s not like playing a money game with your buddies or something.” – Sam Fidone on the playoff hole
“After making three cuts this year out of eight events, I’ll definitely say it was a great week for me. I got a lot of work done early in the week to set myself up for a good ball-striking week, and that’s exactly what I ended up doing. I really struck the ball well, and I made a couple good putts here and there.” – Sam Fidone
“Honestly, Zack Zaback and I were joking through the first seven holes. We were like ‘Who’s tournament is this to win? Because it’s not ours, it’s definitely this kid’s.’ We were really impressed with the way Hayden came out and started firing. I haven’t played the par-5s that well this week, and I hit all three of them in two today and made eagle on No. 7.” – Sam Fidone
“I kind of struggled on the back nine off the tee, but that’s golf, and I chipped away at that lead. I did my best to bring him to a playoff, and it was a good week for me.” – Sam Fidone