TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –Clayton Rask had always dreamed of going to the final hole of regulation, making a birdie and celebrating his first NGA TOUR victory. While he was only able to make good on one of the three wishes, at least it was the one he wanted the most.
When the Killearn Country Club Classic was shortened to 36 holes, Rask was declared the winner on Monday afternoon, giving him plenty of time to celebrate before this week’s NGA TOUR event in Tifton, Ga.
"You’d like to go up to 18 in the final round and make the birdie putt, but that’s not the way it happened," said Rask, who finished with a 13-under 131 total and earned $28,000 for the victory. "It’s a win and I get credit for it. That’s why you go out and play as hard as you can every round. You never know what can happen."
That was certainly the case with the season-opening event at Killearn.
After a massive front of inclement weather pushed the first round into Friday and the finish of the second round into Sunday, the NGA TOUR shortened the event to 54 holes with hopes of a Sunday finish.
Unfortunately, rain didn’t allow many of the leaders to complete the final round of play.
The decision was made to finish on Tuesday, but due to continuous rains and flood warnings in the Tallahassee area, the event was shortened to
After a 5-under 67 in the first round left him tied for seventh, Rask, a former Minnesota Golden Gopher from Otsego, Minn., started inching up the leaderboard in the second round. Rask played his first 12 holes of the second round at 5-under par before play was suspended due to rain on Friday.
"Anytime you have delays it can be tough," said Rask. "Luckily, I’ve had my fair share of experience with them. You can’t get frustrated and start listening to what other people have to say about the situation.
You can’t control the conditions. You just have to stay focused.
Rask did just that when he returned to complete his second round on Saturday, picking up three more birdies and finishing with an 8-under 64 that gave him the outright lead and led to a two-stroke victory over Trent Whitekiller.
"I got off to a good start in the second round and had a couple of up and downs to keep the round going," said Rask. "Despite the weather, the greens at Killearn were in great shape and I putted well. I had all the confidence in the world when I got over my putts. My putting was my saving grace this week."
With the win, Rask takes the early lead in the NGA TOUR money standings and hopes to stay there in order to receive one of the many Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR event exemptions to be given to NGA TOUR members this season.
"I looked at all those exemptions at the beginning of the season, and they’re definitely part of my goals for the year," said Rask. "If you’re playing well out here, you never know what can happen if you can get into one of those events."
Whitekiller, a former Oklahoma State standout from Sallisaw, Okla., opened with a 7-under 65 to earn a share of the first-round lead and carded a 4-under 68 in the second round. While he played both rounds bogey-free, the Cowboy alum came up short of his first victory, finishing at 11-under par.
Miami’s James Vargas and Zack Fischer of Wake Village, Texas, finished tied for third at 10-under par, while Lake City’s Blayne Barber, Longwood’s Jeff Corr, Chris Erwin of Brentwood, Tenn., and Canadian Marc-Etienne Bussieres finished T5 at 9-under par.