HARTFORD, Conn. – Eighteen months ago, Cameron Young was stuck in golfing purgatory.
On Sunday, the former Bridgeport resident nearly won his first PGA Tour title in only his sixth start after making the first cut in his brief career in the major leagues.
Young birdied three of the first eight holes on the way to a closing 4-under-par 68 for a 54-hole total of 21-under 267 that eventually put him into a tie for second with Nick Watney, one behind Sam Burns in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.
“I had some different things working each day,” Young said. “First day I drove it great and kind of didn’t get it in the hole until the very end. Then the next few days, I drove it kind of sideways but chipped and putted really well. Today, I hit some better iron shots, so I kind of didn’t get all the things going at once or for multiple days, but I had some part of it working every day.
“I think I’ve been going in the right direction for a while now. I missed a bunch of cuts at the end of the Korn Ferry Tour season, not playing bad golf, just not getting it in the hole. I wasn’t scoring well, but I think this was a step in the right direction with my scoring and being able to put a score on the board even when I’m not on all cylinders and not necessarily hitting it in the right spots and not hitting it where I’m looking. So I think this is just proof that I can do that.”
Young’s finish earned him a check for $623,000 and a spot in the Shriners Children’s Open that begins Thursday in Las Vegas instead of having to try to qualify for the event on Monday.
“That’s a huge relief,” Young said. “When we started, the goal was to get into Vegas, and then the last couple days being up around the lead, the goal was to win the tournament. I’m happy to get to play (in Vegas), happy to not have to play Monday. Any starts are good starts, and I’m really happy that I get to go.”
When asked about his composure and trying to win as a rookie bidding for his first PGA Tour title, Young said that’s why he’s out there.
“I don’t think anyone’s out here wants to just finish in the Top 10,” Young said. “I think if you asked anybody at the beginning of the week say what do you want to do this week, they would say they want to win. That’s just why I play, and that’s what I enjoy. I love being in contention, I love feeling the nerves, so it was fun today.
“I enjoyed it, even though it might not have looked like it, but there’s where I’m at my most comfortable is kind of those situations, trying to make a couple birdies. I knew Sam was ahead of me, and I had to make a couple of birdies and just didn’t do it, but I will have another time.”
Despite the pressure cooker, Young remained his usually stoic self.
“I was really just trying to keep it in play as well as I could and manage it around the greens because if you don’t, you’re going to make some bogeys,” Young said. “So I was just really focused on kind of executing the plan that we can and just trying to make a bunch of birdies because you have to.”
Burns, 25, made seven birdies in a closing 67 and had to be cheered on by Kramer Hickok, a loser to Harris English in a tournament-record eight-hole playoff in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in June. Burns spent the entire playoff with Hickok’s wife and parents, agonizing as much as them as the sudden death tied the second-longest in PGA Tour history.
On Sunday, Burns birdied four of five holes on the back nine, starting at No. 11 to pull out his second PGA Tour title to go with the Valspar Championship on May 2. The LSU grad parred the 16th and 17th holes, and despite a closing bogey was able to best some of college peers, including Young, and win the $7 million tournament.
Young, 24, who lives in Scarborough, N.Y., had a shot at the biggest win of career after he was among 25 players to earn PGA Tour cards for the 2021-22 season when he finished 19th on the points list after the conclusion of the Korn Ferry Tour’s final regular-season event, the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha, Neb.
“It’s a life-changing, course-altering deal, and I feel really fortunate honestly to get in when I did,” Young told pgatour.com at the time. “I know in a normal year without COVID and wraparound season, I wouldn’t have gotten those consecutive starts with the finish I had in Omaha last year. So lucky to get in when I did and now that it’s a year ago and I’ve played a full Korn Ferry Tour season, it is hard to imagine what I would have been doing.
“But I know I have friends that are trying, that are playing Monday qualifiers and mini-tour events and looking back I know how much I don’t miss that. It’s a hard road and to get where I’ve gotten, I feel really grateful to have done what I did at that time and to have it worked out the way it did.”
Young felt likewise again Sunday.