Bowling Green’s Trey Shirley surged up the leaderboard to erase a big deficit and win the 99th Kentucky Open golf championship at Big Spring Country Club in Goshen on Thursday. With his final-round 62, Shirley not only finished with a strong 15-under par 198 to win the tournament for the first time in 10 tries, he tied the single-round course-scoring record set by PGA professional and Goshen native Justin Thomas in 2012.
“I’m just thrilled to be the Kentucky Open Champion,” said Shirley, who joins the ranks of past winners like J.B. Holmes, Byron Nelson, Gay Brewer Jr. and Larry Gilbert. “It hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s an honor to have my name next to that list of past champions on the trophy. There were a lot of good players here this week, and with so many good up-and-coming players, it really motivated me to work hard on my game.”
Heading into the third and final round, Shirley trailed University of Louisville junior-to-be Trevor Johnson by five strokes. Johnson took a one-shot lead to earn sole possession of first place after Wednesday’s second round, but 17 golfers were within five strokes of the lead heading into Thursday.
Shirley jumped into contention on the front nine, carding four birdies and no bogeys. He finally claimed a share of the lead after his seventh birdie of the day on hole No. 15. As he teed off on No. 16 a total of 11 players were either tied for or within one shot of first place.
But Shirley didn’t shrink from the moment. He finished with birdies on the final two holes to seal the title.
The win and $10,000 share of the purse marks another milestone in a successful stretch for Shirley over the last couple of years. The 27-year-old made it to the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2016 and held Web.com Tour status the following year. He’s currently playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and has made the cut in two of his last four events.
Johnson finished alone in second place. He had a chance to force a playoff on No. 18, but his putt just barely skirted the cup.
“The front nine was a little tough, but I stuck with it and stayed patient,” said Johnson. “I had a good feeling about today ... it’s one thing to lose, but when you lose to a 62, all you can do is shake his hand and smile. It’s definitely a great way to cap off the summer and I’m excited for the fall season.”
Recent University of Kentucky graduate Chip McDaniel finished tied for third at 13-under. His former teammate and last year’s Kentucky Open champ Cooper Musselman finished tied for 45th at 4-under. Georgetown’s Billy Tom Sargent finished alone in seventh place at 12-under.