Hayden Wood had been close before.
The Edmond, Okla. native and Oklahoma State graduate found himself at the top of the leaderboard Friday evening after completing Round 3 of the Colbert Charity Classic at Colbert Hills Golf Club.
Wood had four top 10 finishes in the 2021 season coming into this weekend including taking second place at the Grand Casino Open in Shawnee, Okla. back in May. In that tournament, Wood had tied things up in the back nine after a late charge on the final day of the tournament only to fall to second after failing to birdie any of the final three holes.
On Saturday, he was determined to not let it slip away.
Wood, son of former PGA Tour and current PGA Champions Tour Golfer Willie Wood, came into the tournament with some familiarity of the course after competing in the tournament last year and finishing tied for 13th.
His knowledge of the course showed throughout the tournament and paid dividends down the stretch Saturday afternoon.
“I figured you have to keep it below the hole in a lot of these holes,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of slope on a lot of greens and putts can get away from you so that was probably my biggest take away from last year. You can also hit drivers in a couple of places that you wouldn’t immediately think that you could. Really, I’m just more familiar with the course.”
Despite starting two-over after the first three holes, Wood found his stride and kept his lead into the back-nine. He parred the 11th through 15th hole, staving off challenges for the lead from eventual second-place finisher Austin Gaines and several others. With a two-stroke lead, Wood birdied both the 16th and 17th but so did Gaines who was playing in the group right before him keeping the lead unchanged. That left the 18th hole. The leader was determined to keep his cool as he made his way from the Par-3 17th hole to the 453-feet Par-4 final hole.
“There’s definitely pressure,” Wood said. “But I’m not trying to think about that. I’m just trying to play my game.”
Wood considered powering his way off the elevated tee box but the water hazard on the right and the native grass rough on the left, plus his knowledge of his two-shot cushion, led him to go with a more cautious approach.
Wood knew he just needed to get to the green, which he did with little issue, but once he arrived, a long missed putt almost blew his safety net but he managed to get out of there without doing too much damage, keeping a one-stroke lead and ending the tournament with a 18-under 270 (66-67-66-71), Wood’s first professional championship of his career.
“It wasn’t pretty but I got it taken care of,” Wood said with a smile.
“It’s like a hand in blackjack. If you play the right way and then over time if you keep playing the right then things will take care of themselves and I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing this summer. In the end, I made a few putts here and there and it worked out for me.”
After hoisting the championship cup high in the air for the first time with a $23,000 novelty check perched on the table in front of him, Wood was asked by an older fan for an autograph on a golf ball. Wood, ever an OSU ‘Poke at heart, agreed but made one stipulation.
“We’ve got to get another color,” Wood said laughing as he gestured toward the red marker the man was holding which was reminiscent of the University of Oklahoma’s Crimson. “I don’t sign in red. I just can’t do it.”
Eventually Wood and the fan found a much more agreeable black marker and as promised, the ninth champion of the Colbert Charity Classic signed the golf ball and made his way into the clubhouse.
The win gives Wood a boost of confidence, one that he hopes will continue to push him into higher levels of the sport.
“It means a lot, knowing that I can put four good rounds together and battle through some adversity and some curveballs,” Wood said.
“To do that shows to me that I’m doing things right and that I’ll be able to build off that going forward.”
Former K-State golfers hold strong in Round 4
Former Wildcat golfer Kyle Weldon (graduated in 2016) improved his standing in the final round of the tournament while Roland Massimino (2019) and Jake Eklund (2021) dropped.
Massimino (68-71-71-71-281) was the high finisher among the three, ending the day in tied in 27th place at seven-under after shooting a 71 on Saturday.
Weldon finished with a three-spot improvement after Round 3, tied for 33rd with a five-under 283 (74-65-74-70) and Eklund dropped one spot to 48th with a two-over 290 (69-73-77-75).