Danny Walker is an upstart whose nondescript amateur career contributed to a dearth of attention in advance of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. Yet with a torrid finish he chased down two of the most heralded players in the field to win by one.
A former University of Virginia player who was never higher than 142nd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Walker birdied his last three holes on a back nine of 30 on the Cattail course at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz.
Walker closed with a nine-under par 63 and a two-shot lead that was reduced to one when Norman Xiong birdied the 17th. Xiong, however, parred the 18th hole giving Walker the victory. He completed 72 holes in 27-under par 261.
He trailed Xiong and Doug Ghim, former amateur stars and 2017 Walker Cup teammates, and Xinjun Zhang by one when he began his three-hole closing blitz. The victory gives him full status on the Web.com Tour in 2019.
Walker, 23, in effect has won two straight tournaments. He played in all 12 Mackenzie Tour events and won the last of them, the Freedom 55 Financial Championship in London, Ontario, Canada. It moved him to seventh on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit, exempting him into the final of Web.com Tour qualifying.
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Yet it was an upset of the highest order; he was never higher than 142nd in the amateur ranking.
Those who finished second through 10th and ties are guaranteed 12 Web.com Tour starts in 2019, while those finishing 11th through 40th and ties are guaranteed eight starts.
Xiong and Ghim finished second and tied for third, respectively, to earn at least the 12 starts.
In the 2017-’18 season, Xiong was college golf’s best player, the winner of both the Jack Nicklaus Award and the Haskins Award in his first and only full season at Oregon. He was No. 3 in the World Ranking.
Ghim, meanwhile, was the runner-up in the U.S. Amateur in 2017, the low amateur in the 2018 Masters, and No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking when he turned pro in June. In five PGA Tour events as a professional, he finished in the top 25 in two of them.
Among others to earn at least eight starts was Scottie Scheffler, who also was part of the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team in 2017. Scheffler tied for 34th.
Meanwhile, Braden Thornberry, fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, played as an amateur, tied for 74th and likely will remain an amateur through June, 2019. He previously had said that he would turn professional immediately only had he earned status on the Web.com Tour. Now it’s likely he’ll return to the University of Mississippi and complete his senior year. He was the NCAA individual champion in 2017.
Others who failed to finish in the top 40 (and ties) include former PGA Tour players Zac Blair (T50), Luke Guthrie (T64) and Spencer Levin (T92). Olin Browne Jr., son of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions player Olin Browne, also finished T92.