ST. PETERSBURG — With high winds and low temperatures for the final round of the New Year's Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club, Hayden Buckley felt comfortable. A junior at the University of Missouri, Buckley said he spent the past month practicing in cold conditions.
While others faded at the finish, Buckley held on with a steady 2-over 74 to win with a total of 6-under 282. He outlasted Peyton Wilhoit (75) of Southern Illinois by two shots. Wilhoit started the day one shot behind Buckley. Harrison Shih (77) of Columbia University was also a shot back to start the day but finished at 2 under.
"It's something I'm used to being in Missouri," Buckley said. "I've been playing in a lot of cold lately. When it's this cold, it just kind of lowers your expectations. In the first two rounds, you're making a lot of birdies, and then in the last two days, you're just trying to hang on and make pars."
Pars were not easy to come by Sunday. By the time the final group hit the back nine, it was a four-player race. It became a three-player race after the par-3 14th hole. Joseph Pagdin — from Lake Nona, near Orlando, and a high school freshman at Trinity Prep in Winter Park — started the day three shots back but triple bogeyed the hole to fall five behind. On the par-4 15th, Shih hit his tee shot out of bounds and made triple bogey to drop four shots behind.
That left Buckley and Wilhoit. Buckley birdied the 16th to get to 6 under and take a two-shot lead. Both parred the final two holes.