HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida — John Coultas admitted after his final round of the Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament that he didn’t have his A Game. What Coultas didn’t say is he is good enough to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. The former Jack Nicklaus Award winner out of Florida Southern made a clutch birdie putt on No. 17 and then held off Bennett Wisner on the final hole to win the TOUR’S second qualifier of the season by a shot over Wisner. Coultas will be fully exempt for the entire 2019 season. Wisner and 13 others will be fully-exempt for the first six tournaments of the year that will begin in June.
Holding on to a one-shot lead on the 17th hole, Coultas and Wisner had equal-distance, third-shot approaches into the par-5. Coultas had an uphill, 16-footer for birdie that he calmly knocked in, with Wisner following with a birdie of his own, from five feet to stay within one stroke. The two players both parred 18, Wisner’s last-gasp 30-footer for birdie coming up short.
Coulter stumbled early in his final round, making a three-putt bogey at No. 3 from 15 feet, his birdie putt moving much faster than he anticipated, leaving five feet coming back for par, a putt he missed. Wisner got off to an equally slow start. After making two eagles and a birdie at No. 1 in the first three rounds, he merely parred the hole Friday, made another par at No. 2 then made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4. Wisner and Coultas matched each other hole for hole all the way to No. 9 when Wisner birdied and Coultas parred. Wisner, however, could never get any closer than one shot.
“I made a few good pars on that three-through-eight stretch that kind of settled me down a bit,” Coultas said. His lone front-nine birdie came during those six holes, at No. 7 that allowed him to make the turn at 1-over. “I kind of hit it a little off of the tee box out of position. The greens were rolling really fast, and they had some dicey pin locations,” he said of his struggles during the round.
Still, he did enough to emerge from a golf course that saw him tie for seventh two months ago at the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament, giving Coultas 2019 membership on both Tours.
Coultas won’t have much time to rest. He’s slated to play the Ocala Open on the Florida Professional Golf Tour a few miles down the road from here March 13-15. He will then attend the third and final rounds of THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., before making preparations to head to Panama for the beginning of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica season.
Five players tied for 12th, with only three spots available for the fully-exempt status for the first six tournaments. Emerging from the one-hole playoff were Peyton White, amateur Travis Trace and Andreas Halvorsen, with Eric Ansett and Ryan Wenzler eliminated but still earning conditional status.
Did you know John Coultas was a three-time, first-team All-American playing at Florida Southern University?
First Round: 18
Second Round: 18
Third Round: 31
Fourth Round: 29
Ryan Wenzler had the low round of the tournament, with his 7-under 65 Friday. After playing the front nine in 2-under, with four birdies and two bogeys—his second bogey of the nine coming at No. 18 (he played the nines backward)—Wenzler peeled off five consecutive birdies from holes 1 to 5 then added another birdie on the par-3 eighth. He tied for 12th, didn’t get out of the playoff for the final three fully-exempt spots and will have conditional membership in 2019.
Eric Ansett continued the roller-coaster tournament to the finish. The former Lipscomb University player shot rounds of 79-67-74-66 to tie for 12th. He was 12 strokes better in the second round vs. the first, and that was the best round-to-round improvement of the tournament. He lost in the sudden-death playoff and will have conditional status in 2019.
The University of North Florida had two of its current players earn Mackenzie Tour status this week. Philip Knowles and Travis Trace joined Mercer’s Stanton Schorr as amateurs who earned fully-exempt status through the first half of the season. Schorr finished third, while Knowles had a pair of 70s over his final 36 holes to tie for ninth. Trace shot rounds of 69-74-70-73 to tie for 12th, and he made it through the sudden-death, five-players-for-three-positions playoff.
Bennett Wisner was the only player in the field to record four under-par rounds. Finishing at 9-under and alone in second place, he shot scores of 69-70-69-71.
Stanton Schorr left the course immediately to drive to Tampa to meet his Mercer University teammates in preparation for the USF Invitational next week, hosted by the University of South Florida. Schorr, who finished third, three strokes behind winner John Coultas, is a senior at Mercer and is hoping his team qualifies for the NCAA Championship in May. He will turn pro following the completion of his college season and plans to play every Mackenzie Tour event for which he’s eligible.
American Kyle Mueller bookended two 69s around a pair of even-par 72s in the second and third rounds to tie for fourth with Canada’s Hugo Bernard and England’s Greg Eason, at 6-under.
Montreal’s Hugo Bernard was the low Canadian of the 10 in this week’s field. He tied for fourth, a 69-68 finish at the El Campeon Course.
Besides Hugo Bernard, other Canadians to earn status this week were Jimmy Jones (tied for 17th) and amateur Maxwell Sear (tied for 39th). Sear’s final two rounds were impressive after a 78-76 start. He had back-to-back 70s to finish at 6-over and grab one of the last conditional-status positions. Jones began the day tied for 10th but dropped seven spots after his final-round 74.
John Coultas saw his streak of under-par rounds at Mission Inn Resort come to an end Friday with his even-par 72. In his seven previous rounds on the course this year (four for the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament in January and three this week), his scores were 71-69-70-71-70-70-66. His par-or-better streak, however, remains intact. Coultas’ scoring average at the course this year is 69.875.
The par-4 sixth hole played as the most-difficult hole in the final round, a stroke average of 4.513 There were only eight birdies there Friday. The easiest hole was the par-5 14th, the hole yielding one eagle and 57 birdies.
“Once I got to the back nine, I took advantage of a couple of the par-5s, and that was good enough for me to come out on top.” –John Coultas
“It looked like it was about a cup out left, up the hill a decent amount, especially at the beginning. I made sure I kept my head down and stroked it right on line. It followed the break perfectly and kind of snuck in right-center.” –John Coultas on his 17th-hole birdie putt
“It was awesome. I love it when they’re always out here. They’ve been able to watch me a couple of times when I’ve won, and it’s always a great feeling to walk off the 18th green and be able to hug everyone. It’s a super-exciting time.” –John Coultas on his mother caddying for him and his father, grandfather and girlfriend following him in the gallery
“The par putt on 5 was big. I had bogeyed 3 and 4, and I had about a 12-foot slider for par and was able to make that. That calmed the freight train that was moving in the wrong direction a little bit.” –John Coultas
“It was playing a little shorter today, so water wasn’t too much in play. I was able to hit a good one out there, to about 100 yards. [Bennett Wisner] had the first shot, and he hit it to about 25 or 30 feet, so I knew if I just got it up there to make par, I would most likely be fine.” –John Coultas on playing No. 18 at El Campeon on Friday
“I’m very excited. A lot of golf to be played in the future. I’m super excited to head up there and decide which tournaments to play in. I’m beyond pumped, really.” –John Coultas
“It was tough. We had a mud ball for the second shot, and it didn’t fly as far as I thought it was going to. I thought [the putt] was about a cup-and-a-half out to the right, and going up the hill and over the hill and into the green late in the day, I just didn’t quite hit it hard enough.” –Bennett Wisner on his birdie putt on No. 18 that could have forced a playoff
“I definitely after the first two rounds was looking to finish first. I played well, but John played great the third round. If there’s anybody I would want to finish second to, it’s him. He’s a great guy and a great competitor.” –Bennett Wisner
“From where I’ve come from and how I know I used to feel, I’m just excited to know I have the opportunity to have guaranteed starts.” –Bennett Wisner
“I thought it was a great week, but second is always nice. You get the guaranteed starts and the Tour card, so it’s good.” –Bennett Wisner
“This was just another tournament that I wanted to play in because I wanted to play professionally. I think it’s a boost of confidence, for sure, that I can hang with some of the guys who have been playing professionally for a while and the guys who aspire to do so.” –Stanton Schorr
“I’m hoping to take that confidence throughout the rest of my college career and into professional golf.” –Stanton Schorr
How the Tournament Worked
After five withdrawals and two disqualifications, 113 players completed all 72 holes. Below is a breakdown of the status earned this week—the same at each of the six Qualifying Tournaments: