Georgetown native Ashton Van Horne made a steady two-day charge up the leaderboard to win the Kentucky Open Championship at the University of Louisville Golf Club in Simpsonville on Thursday, knocking off Shelbyville’s Daniel Iceman III in a two-hole playoff.
“It’s really cool to think about how you work so hard and practice and believe you can do this but until you’ve done something like this it’s hard to believe it’s ever gonna happen,” said Van Horne. “It’s a lot of hard work and it’s awesome to have something to show for it as cool as this.”
Van Horne, who graduated from Belmont University in Tennessee in May, dug an 8-shot hole after a 74 in Tuesday’s opening round, but recovered with rounds of 66 on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I was about as low as you can be (after the opening round),” he said. “Normally you see the guy that wins these gets out in front early, and it’s hard to catch up in a three-day event.”
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Trailing Iceman by 1 stroke heading to the par-5 17th hole, Van Horne knew he had to change his approach if he was going to seize a shot at winning the title.
“The wheels were really spinning there on the back nine so I went to 17 and changed my game plan,” he said. “I hit two perfect shots and got right back in it ... 17 all week for me has been 3-iron off the tee and that will get me front edge, but today I needed a look at eagle.”
Van Horne teed off with a 3-wood, then attacked the flag with a 5-iron on his second stroke. His shot thudded onto the green, which was softened by two days of steady rain, and stuck about one foot from the hole. He tapped in for Eagle and a 1-shot lead heading to 18.
Playing in the group right behind Van Horne’s, Iceman birdied the 17th hole to move into a tie at 10-under par. A long birdie try by Iceman on the 18th hole missed the cup by mere inches.
“It just needed another half-a-ball turn and it was in,” said Iceman. “I was just trying to lag it down there within three feet. It was a tough putt and it almost went in.”
Both golfers parred the 18th hole, sending the pair into a sudden death playoff.
After once again trading pars on 18, the playoff moved to hole No. 10. Both drives found the fairway, but Iceman’s second shot landed in the rough to the upper left of the green, while Van Horne gave himself a long birdie put. A misfired chip shot by Iceman led to a bogey, and Van Horne two-putted for par to seal his first professional win.
“It’s been a tough summer, not having any status anywhere and doing a lot of Monday qualifiers and this totally changes my outlook, this helps a lot,” said Van Horn, who will begin Qualifying School in the fall in hopes of earning a spot on a professional tour.
University of Kentucky golfer Cooper Musselman was the top scoring amateur at 7-under par. He fired rounds of 68, 72 and 69.
“It feels really good to have the best amateur score with such a good field,” said the 21-year-old junior. “I’m happy to be the top amateur and hopefully next year I can take the next step.”
Musselman’s future UK teammate, incoming transfer Evan Cox, had the second-best score among the four Wildcats who played in the Kentucky Open, finishing in an 11th-place tie at 4-under par.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225