American Will Wilcox knows how to make the most of a sponsor’s exemption.
The 24-year-old from Alabama sunk a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole Sunday to edge fellow American Brady Stockton and win the Canadian Tour’s $250,000 Dakota Dunes Casino Open in Saskatoon.
Wilcox closed with a six-under 66 to finish at 25-under 263, one shot clear of Stockton. New Zealand’s Josh Geary, who won in Saskatoon in 2008, and Garrett Frank placed third, a distant five shots off the pace.
Californian Cody Slover posted a course record 11-under 61 to vault into fifth with fellow American Wil Collins and Edmonton’s Danny Sahl. Brad Fritsch of Manotick, Ont., (64) and Kris Wasylowich of Lethbridge, Alta., (66) finished ninth at 18-under.
“This is great, just unbelievable,” said Wilcox, who took home $40,000 for the triumph. “This is really going to have a positive impact on my career going forward. Life just changed for me. This is great stuff.”
Both Wilcox and Stockton traded shots down the backstretch at Dakota Dunes and it was beginning to look like last birdie would win, which is exactly how the final moments unfolded.
Stockton birdied 11, 12 and 13 to pull ahead by one, before Wilcox answered with birdies of his own at 13 and 14. Stockton made long putts on 16 and 17 to save par and remain even.
On the par five closing hole, Wilcox hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and blasted out to 15 feet. Seconds after Stockton failed to knock in his 18-foot birdie attempt, Wilcox stepped up and sunk the winner.
“I thought for sure he was going to make that putt on 18,” said Wilcox. “We had quite the battle down the stretch and he seemed to be making everything.”
Wilcox will now have to alter his travel plans for the coming week, although he isn’t complaining. Originally scheduled to compete in a mini-tour event in Texas, he will stay for this week’s $300,000 Players Cup in Winnipeg. He’s now fully exempt on the Canadian Tour through 2012.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Wilcox. “My decision was all based on how I played today, but now, I don’t even have to think about it. That’s some serious money.
“I’m going to Winnipeg.”