Argentinian captures inaugural Korn Ferry Tour event on 72nd hole
By Preston Smith
Berthoud, Colo. — Nelson Ledesma won the inaugural TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes in dramatic fashion, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at the 18th and final hole to edge playing partner Brett Coletta by one stroke. With the win, Ledesma earns his first PGA TOUR card and will be a rookie on TOUR during the 2019-20 season.
“We tried to look at the break from every angle and in the end, we decided to play it straight downhill,” said Ledesma, who walked it in with a huge fist pump. “When the ball was about six feet away from the hole, I knew it was going in. I knew the tournament was mine.”
The Argentinian held the lead for most of the day, but Coletta birdied the par-4 17th to draw even at 14-under before Ledesma’s closing birdie. The 18th hole played as the toughest hole on the course and the fifth toughest on Tour this season. Ledesma’s birdie was only the 19th birdie of the week on the par-4, 531-yard hole.
“I started the day a little nervous, but during the round I got control of my game,” said Ledesma. “On 17, when Brett [Coletta] made the birdie, I knew it was down to the two of us for the final hole. When I saw that last putt going in, that felt great.”
Ledesma Shows Grit
After entering the final round with a share of the lead, Ledesma had an up-and-down start. He tallied birdies at Nos. 2 and 3, but double-bogeyed the fourth hole to fall out of the lead for the first time since early in the first round. He rebounded with birdies at the fifth and seventh, sandwiching a bogey at the sixth, to make the turn at 1-under on the day. He parred every hole on the back nine prior to the 18th.
With the win, Ledesma moves to fourth in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings. Ledesma, who’ll turn 29 later this month, becomes the second Argentinian to win multiple events on the Korn Ferry Tour, joining Miguel Carballo.
“It’s always been my dream to play on the PGA TOUR,” said Ledesma. “My dad encouraged me at a young age because he saw something in me. I am from the same town as Andres Romero (Tucuman), and Andres getting to the PGA TOUR gave me the belief that I could take it to the next level.”
Ledesma led after each of the first and second rounds and held a share of the lead (with Coletta) after the third round. He ranked T7 in driving accuracy for the week (82 percent) and hit 15/18 greens in regulation on Sunday (T2).
“This is the first time I’ve felt this strong with my game,” said Ledesma. “I changed my swing a little bit this year, and when I got here and saw the golf course being this long, it excited me. I trust my iron play, so I expected to play well. Last year’s win in New York almost felt like a lucky week. This year I’ve been playing great so it feels like it is legit.”
Coletta Makes a Charge
Coletta clawed back into contention after a tough start to his final round. The Australian double-bogeyed the first hole and bogeyed the fifth to go 3-over through his first five holes. From there he collected four birdies and nine pars to reach 14-under. The birdie at the 17th was the second consecutive day he birdied the hole, the fifth toughest hole on the course.
Four players finished at 13-under and hung around to see if that number would reach a playoff. Until Coletta birdied the 17th, and later, Ledesma birdied the 18th, 13-under looked to have a strong chance at a playoff with two difficult closing holes. Scott Harrington, Dawie van der Walt, Harry Higgs and Michael Gellerman each reached 13-under to finish T3.
TPC Colorado Championship Sunday Notes
- Three Coloradans—Mark Hubbard (-4, T37), James Love (-2, T49) and Zahkai Brown (even par, T59) made the cut and played through Sunday.
- Nelson Ledesma marks the ninth out of 19 54-hole leaders/co-leaders that have gone on to win the tournament in 2019.
- Earlier in the week, Brett Coletta carded the only ace of the tournament on Thursday at the 16th. After learning it was the first ace on the hole in the brief history of the course, he donated the ball to the course as a memento. The ace was the 14th by a player on Tour this year.
- Scott Harrington (-13, T3) briefly held the solo lead after going 8-under through his first nine holes on Sunday before finishing with a 7-under 65. The 8-under 28 is the lowest nine-hole score by any player on Tour this season. Harrington began the round T22.
- Michael Gellerman (-13, T3) carded a 74 during the first round and was in contention competing in the penultimate group. He was looking to become the first player to shoot a 74 or worse in the first round and go on to win since Kyle Thompson carded a 76 at the 2017 Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. The highest first round of an eventual champion this season is a 71 at the KC Golf Classic by Gellerman.
- Harry Higgs (-13, T3) tied for the most birdies on Sunday (8) and for the tournament (23). With the top-five finish he moved to 16th in The 25.
- Dawie van der Walt (-13, T3) overcame a double bogey at the par-3 eighth hole to earn a top-five finish, his first of the year.
- Zecheng “Marty” Dou (-12, T7) holed out from the fairway on No. 17 (the only eagle on the hole all week) and posted a final-round 66 to earn his second-best finish of the year. He won the first tournament of the season (The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay) but has made only four additional cuts in 16 starts since.
- Michael Gligic (-11, T10) locked up his first PGA TOUR card with a top-10. With a total of 876 points, Gligic rose to 13th in The 25.
- MJ Maguire (-3, T44) led three Monday qualifiers that made the cut.
- The 7,991-yard course was the longest course the Korn Ferry Tour has played in the Tour’s 30-year history. The 773-yard 13th hole (par-5) is the longest hole ever played on Tour, while the 273-yard 14th is the longest par-3 played on Tour this year. The par-4 18th hole (531 yards) is the longest par-4 hole played on Tour this year as well.
- This week’s purse was $600,000, with $108,000 going to the champion, Nelson Ledesma. Ledesma also receives 500 Korn Ferry Tour points with the win.
- Forty-nine past Korn Ferry Tour winners were in the field this week, with a combined 70 victories between them. Eight past PGA TOUR champions were in the field as well combining for 24 victories. Major winner David Duval led the pack with 13 career TOUR wins.
- The par-4 17th hole (531 yards) ranked as the toughest hole on the course through the week with a scoring average of 4.377, the fifth-highest mark on Tour this year. The hole yielded 19 birdies and caused 172 bogeys or worse.
- The par-5 fifth hole (624 yards) ranked as the easiest hole on the course through the week with a scoring average of 4.531. The hole yielded 212 birdies, 12 eagles and 21 bogeys or worse.
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