After two holes in the final clutch, Kurt Kitaema became the winner of the PGA Tour, taking home the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the age of 9.
Kitaema led the final round on Sunday with three strokes, but as we’ve seen too many times in the past, the road to victory at golf is never easy.
It was much the same on hole 9, when Kitayama saw his tee-box shot go into the water, resulting in a triple ghost shot that wiped out his lead.
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However, California native Chico dug in deep and kept up until the 17th hole, when he took advantage of a birdie opportunity.
From about 14 feet on the par 3 hole, Kitayama hit the shot, giving him the first birdie after hole 7, which was also a par 3 hole.
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This returned Kitayama to 9-under and, more importantly, to first place with one hole left to play.
The world’s No. 2 and No. 3 golfers, Rory McIlroy and Scotty Sheffler, respectively, tailed Kitayama into this 18th hole. McIlroy was one hit behind and Sheffler was two hits behind.
But Kitayama remained cool at the time, even after his shot hit some steep bump to the left of the fairway. On a close shot, he kept the ball safe, landing about 47 feet from the hole.
Kitayama almost sent the crowd into a frenzy when his punch almost seeped in, stopping at the rim of the cup.
However, with this great shot, he sealed his win and the precision of the ball hit brought a smile to his face.
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Coming after the best flat round of his life (he shot 72), Kitayama was impressed by “how hard I fought”.
“I went South 9 and all of a sudden I’m not leading anymore,” he told NBC. “I just resisted. I’m proud of myself for that.”
This was not only his first career win, but also the biggest salary of Kitayama’s career. He has earned about $4 million from the PGA Tour to date, according to the Golf Channel.
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Well, he nearly matched that amount with his first win as the Arnold Palmer Invitational purse was $3.6 million.