By Jim Brockman, Staff Writer, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 17 February 2020
Twenty-four-year-old Andrew Novak finishes at 23-under for his first win on Korn Ferry Tour.
Andrew Novak made his inaugural victory on the Korn Ferry Tour a memorable one.
Playing in the final threesome on Sunday, the 24-year-old from Mount Pleasant, S.C., drained a 50-foot putt from the fringe on No. 17 and then nailed a 10-footer on the 72nd and final hole of the tournament for another birdie to capture the crown at the second annual LECOM Suncoast Classic.
Novak shot 69-64-66-66 – 265 at Lakewood National Golf Club to finish the tournament at 23-under to avoid a playoff and defeat John Chin of Fairfax, Va., by a single stroke.
“This is awesome,” Novak said. “It’s been kind of crazy. When I saw that putt go in on 17, I knew what I had to do on No. 18 because John had already finished. I just executed every shot perfectly.
“I just felt relieved when the putt on 18 went in. The lower lip caught it for me. It just lined up and went in.”
Novak entered the tournament ranked No. 26 on the Korn Ferry Tour this season. A player needs to finish in the top 25 during the regular season to guarantee a PGA Tour Card for the 2021 season.
Although there have only been four Korn Ferry tournaments thus far this year, Novak earned 500 points and a first-place check for a tidy $108,000 on Sunday, which will go a long way toward making his golf dream come to fruition.
“This has been what I have been working for since I turned pro three years ago, even before then in college (Wofford University in Spartanburg, S.C.),” he said. “One win doesn’t get it locked up. But this is obviously a great start.”
While Novak and most of the players on the Korn Ferry Tour are fighting for spots on the PGA Tour, veteran golfer Mike Weir was at Lakewood National Golf Club this week with a different goal in mind.
The 49-year-old Canadian gave the mostly 20-something competition plenty to think about on the par-5 sixth hole (563 yards) on Sunday when he launched a hybrid 4-iron on his second shot from 230 yards out that fell in the cup for the oh-so-rare albatross. Or if you prefer, double eagle. It was his first-ever albatross in any kind of a tournament.
“It hit nice and rolled in just like a putt,” said Weir, who played one stretch of seven holes at 7-under during Sunday’s final round. said. “It was fun.”
Weir turned in rounds of 70-68-68-65 to finish the tournament at 17-under and tied for 17th place. It was his best finish in a professional tournament since 2014.
So why keep grinding away on a tour that is designed to be the final step for younger pros before they make their way to the PGA Tour?
“I’m close to that Champions Tour,” he said. Players must be at least 50 to play on the Champions Tour. “I’m trying to stay sharp. You have to play great golf to go up there and shoot low numbers.”
Weir remains best known as the lone Canadian to ever win a PGA Tour Major. He claimed the Masters crown in 2003 and has won a total of eight PGA events. He spent 110 weeks in the top ten of the World Golf Rankings from 2001 to 2005 and finished sixth at the 2006 PGA Championship.
“This was a good, positive sign as I close in on that magic number,” Weir said. “I just wanted to stay competitive these last few years to be ready for the Champions Tour.
“The only thing missing all week was my short game. My putting was probably a little below average. If I would have sharpened that up. I really would have been right there.
“It was a great score. Don’t get me wrong. I’m super-happy. But it could have really been one of those special ones.”
Weir had his own rooting section of fellow Canadians following him around beginning with the first round on Thursday.
“The fans are awesome,” he said. “There has been a nice group of Canadians out here all week. That has been something special.”
More than 20,000 spectators attended the four-day event.