GARDENS OF PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – What was the weather like on Saturday morning?
Andrew Kozan’s was a hive of activity.
The 23-year-old got up at 4:30 a.m. ET after a little more than five hours of sleep and drove to work an hour later, a 25-minute trip with a lot on his mind.
On the par-5 18th hole at the Champion Course, the tough, water-laden circuit at PGA National Resort that hosts the Honda Classic, he faced 260 yards of possible disaster.
The young pro, who is ranked No. 1,326 in the world and is participating on a sponsor exemption, was the only one of the 144 players in the field to choose to stop playing in the fading light on Friday. He was on the cutline, and, more importantly, he couldn’t see the ball below his feet, much less the green in the distance.
On a beautiful Saturday morning, he was in the middle of the 18th fairway with only his caddie by his side, striking the timeclock at 6:47 a.m.
Make par with four good shots, or miss the cut and spend the weekend at home. This is a big moment when you’re just in your eighth pro event and a member of the Korn Ferry Tour.
Despite being bitten by the last of the Bear Trap’s fangs the day before, when he made triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 17th, Kozan was convinced he’d finish the job. He didn’t think much about trying for the 18th green in two from 260 yards, and after focusing more on hitting 9-irons and sand wedges while warming up, he hammered his second shot 158 yards with said 9-iron and then reached the green with a sand wedge from 116 yards. He two-putted from 20 feet to win his spot in the last two rounds.
It took him 12 minutes to complete the task.
“It was a tough break,” Kozan, who was born in West Palm Beach, said. “I wanted to finish yesterday night, I was happy to get the round done and get ready for the weekend, but coming down 18 we couldn’t see the balls at all.” “It was a lot easier to simply take the tension out of it, hit two easy 150-yard or so shots, and call it a day for the position I was in.”
Oh, but his day wasn’t done yet. His goal of participating in the Honda Classic would live on, thanks to the countless days he spent at the tournament as a kid.
Kozan rushed to have some breakfast, hit a few more strokes to warm up, and then proceeded to the third round’s first tee.
It was 7:35 a.m.
And, in keeping with the odd spirit of the day, Kozan played as a single, despite the fact that only 73 players made the cut and Saturday’s format required twosomes. Kozan shot a 68 and finished the Champion Course in 3 hours, 16 minutes, putting him at even par for the week. After missing the cut by an errant shot shortly before 7 a.m., Kozan was tied for 26th five hours later.
“I had a surprising amount of energy,” he stated. “This is my sixth week in a row, so you’d think I’d be a bit more fatigued, especially over the weekend, not getting a lot of sleep, but I’ve still had a lot of energy, especially this week, with a lot of fans, friends, and family out here supporting me and pushing me forward.”
He’ll get the biggest check of the year. Kozan, who won the AJGA Puerto Rico Junior Open as a 16-year-old and competed in the 2015 Puerto Rico Open as a 16-year-old, tied for 15th in the Panama Championship and earned $10,921.87.
If he keeps his job, he should expect to earn between $65,000 and $70,000. The 73rd solo pays $15,920.
If he finishes in the top 5 or 10, he may even be given his own Wikipedia article.
But he isn’t thinking about Sunday just yet. He could only think of one thing after finishing his play on Saturday morning.
He said, “Relax.” “It’s been a long couple of weeks. It had been a long night the night before. It is early in the morning. So go grab a bite to eat, maybe practice a little, and then come home and watch some movies to unwind.”