Saskatoon, SK – Matt Hill of Sarnia, ON outlasted former PGA TOUR member Will Strickler of Dallas, TX in a playoff to become the first Canadian-born winner of the Dakota Dunes Casino Open Sunday.
Hill, a former NCAA Individual Champion and the 2009 Jack Nicklaus award winner, made birdie on fourth extra hole to clinch his first victory as a professional and take home $24,000.
“It truly feels great to get my first win here,” said Hill following a spirited trophy presentation that included a traditional native ceremony conducted by White Cap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear. “I was proud of myself today for hanging in there and I all I kept telling myself was give yourself a chance,” admitted Hill, who is now a full member of the Canadian Tour.
Hill’s win came just one week after losing in a four-hole playoff to Victoria, BC’s Cory Renfrew at the Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON in Fort McMurray. With the victory Hill climbs to the top of the Order of Merit with $43,300 in earnings and is one step closer to claiming one of the two exemptions into the RBC Canadian Open that are afforded to the top two Canadian Tour members on the Order of Merit following next week’s Players Cup in Winnipeg.
“I would obviously love to play in the Open but right now it’s not something I’m overly concerned with. I’m going to enjoy this victory tonight and get back to work next week in Winnipeg,” confessed Hill.
Hill also becomes the third straight Canadian to win on Tour this summer. Michael Gligic claimed the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS two weeks ago in Edmonton while the aforementioned Renfrew won in Fort McMurray last week. It is also the third straight week a tournament has been decided in a playoff. Hill, 24, joins a list of winners this season all 26 years old or younger.
Hill had a chance to win in regulation after hitting a wedge to 12 feet on the par-5 18th hole. The NC State graduate missed, however, and went into the sudden-death playoff with Strickler, who lipped out an eagle putt on the final hole. Both players finished at 19-under par.
The playoff ensued with both players halving the first two extra holes with pars and the third with birdies. Hill then two putted for birdie on the fourth go around while Strickler needed to get up and down from a waste bunker behind the 18th green. Strickler’s approach landed seven feet from the hole but the Dallas resident once again lipped out, giving Hill his first taste of victory.
With his victory Hill also moves to the top of the Canadian Rookie of the Year race presented by The Great Waterway Tourism Region. Hill has a $6,960.00 lead over Renfrew, who missed the cut this week in Saskatoon. Rounding out the top five are Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, Wilson Bateman and Steve Lecuyer, both from Edmonton.
Other notable scores on the final day at Dakota Dunes Golf Links came from Joel Dahmen of Clarkston, WA, who drained a 40-foot eagle putt on the final hole to finish in a tie for third with James Allenby of Langley, BC. Allenby had a chance of his own for eagle after landing his approach shot on the 18th to 10 feet. His eagle putt came up inches short, however, forcing the 2010 Most Improved Canadian to settle for birdie and an 18-under total. Third round leader Jose de Jesus Rodriguez fell victim to a cold putter, finishing with just three birdies and one bogey on his final round to tie Dahmen and Allenby.
The Canadian Tour heads to Winnipeg next week for The Players Cup. The week will be highlighted by the Rumble at the Ridge which pits Team Jonathan Toews versuses Team Shane Hnidy in a Pro-Am style golf match at Pine Ridge Golf Course on Tuesday July 10th. For ticket information please visit theplayerscup.ca.