Matthew NeSmith wins first title, earns PGA TOUR card at Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco
Matthew NeSmith made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to post a 19-under total and a one-stroke victory over Viktor Hovland and Brandon Hagy at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco. With the win, NeSmith moved to the top spot in The Finals 25 and secured his PGA TOUR card for the first time.
“It’s a huge dream,” said NeSmith, who closed with a 7-under 64. “I’ve been hanging around on mini-tours for a couple of years and I played in Canada until finally getting out here to the Korn Ferry Tour. I played solid all year long, but I started playing really well towards the end of the year, got into the Finals and then anything can happen.”
There was constant change atop Sunday’s leaderboard, as four different players held solo leads. Playing in the fifth-to-last group, Hagy took his turn as the leader when he birdied the last two holes to post a final-round 64 and take the clubhouse lead at 18-under.
Two groups later, NeSmith made two key up-and-downs – for birdie on the par-5 16th and for par on the par-3 17th – and approached the 18th tee tied with Hagy at 18-under. After pulling his drive into the left rough, NeSmith attacked the back-left hole location and hit a wedge to 15 feet, setting up his winning putt.
“I was just happy to have a look in all honesty. I didn’t really know what I was going to have from down there,” said NeSmith. “I ended up having a great shot, hit it perfectly. I had an uphill look moving a bit right to left, and I just wanted to give it a chance. Luckily it went in the middle.”
Twelve months ago, NeSmith was finishing his second season on Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada having missed the cut in seven out of 10 starts. He earned status on the Korn Ferry Tour by finishing T22 at Q-School, and he improved his status through the reshuffle by finishing T9 in the season-opening Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
In his rookie year on the Korn Ferry Tour, NeSmith went on to tally three top-10s in the regular season and finish No. 46 on the points list. After his most recent top-10, a T8 at the Ellie Mae Classic, PGA TOUR player Kyle Thompson called NeSmith and offered some advice that helped him complete his journey to the TOUR.
“He told me to try and do everything slow. I tried to walk as slow as I possibly could,” NeSmith said about the advice from one of his mentors. “Once you start going fast and something goes wrong then you can get in your own way just by not being able to calm down. I needed some time to walk a bit slower and hit some good shots.”
With NeSmith in the clubhouse at 19-under, Hovland still had a chance to force a playoff, as he birdied No. 16 to cut his deficit to two. After a par on No. 17, the Norwegian nearly forced extra holes with a heroic eagle on No. 18, but his approach settled three feet from the hole and he had to settle for a birdie and a T2 finish.
Hovland led by one through 54 holes, the second time he’s led/co-lead in The Finals (first round, Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship). Though he didn’t break through for his first professional victory, Hovland backed up his T11 finish from last week and earned his promotion to the PGA TOUR next season.
“I was trying to win the golf tournament. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t perform better today,” said Hovland. “There were some guys that went low today and played well, but I felt like I left some shots out there. That’s always a little disappointing but I think in a couple of days I will refresh and be happy about going to the TOUR.”