QUITO, Ecuador—On a day he started four shots back of the leader, Toni Hakula carded a final-round 67 to charge to the top and claim the 2023 Kia Open. It is his second career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica victory. At 16-under 272 for the week, the 31-year old from Finland finished one stroke ahead of Argentina’s Julián Etulain, who three-putted for a par at the par-5 17th and then parred the final hole for a round of 65 that turned out to be insufficient.
Firing a low-of-the-week, 9-under 63, Brazil’s Rafael Becker joined Brent Ito of the United States in a tie for third, at 14-under. With back-to-back 70s on the weekend, Mexico’s Armando Favela finished solo fifth, at 13-under.
Leading by three at the start of the day, 54-hole leader Garett Reband of the United States had a tough day, carding a 3-over 75 that included a double bogey and four bogeys. He dropped into a tie for sixth. Mexico’s Jorge Villar, who posted a 65, and Justin Doeden of the United States, who shot 66, joined him at 12-under.
“It feels awesome. It’s been a little while, five years since my last—and only—win. It feels good. It’s a pretty big relief, finishing that last hole and realizing I won. It feels great,” said Hakula, whose lone Tour win came at the 2018 Bupa Match Play in Mexico.
Playing in the last group, Hakula got off to a slow start to fall further behind. He three-putted the second hole for a bogey and then parred the third, which he had birdied twice this week.
“After that, it was almost flawless golf. I played really well and hit the ball great. I putted really well. I had a little blunder on 17, where I picked the wrong club. Otherwise, it was a really good day,” said Hakula, whose second and only other bogey slimmed his lead to one with one hole to play.
In between his two bogeys he had an eagle and five birdies. Playing well and aware of the scores in his group, he had no idea what was going on with the rest of the field during a crazy day that saw several players in the hunt with Reband, the 54-hole leader, struggling.
“I’ve always been one who wants to know where I stand on the scoring. Today at no point did I have an idea. I only knew where my group was standing. I didn’t know where anyone else was sitting,” said the University of Texas alum, who is playing his sixth PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season.
After bogeying 17, the walking scorer asked if he wanted to know what the leaderboard looked like. Hakula was quick to reply with a no. “I said, ‘You know what? I’ve played so well today without knowing, so I’m just going to keep it like that.’ But when we got up on the green, and they announced us, with my basic Spanish, I understood what they said, that I was the leader. Before I hit my first putt, I thought, Well, I’m leading now,” said Hakula, who hit his birdie putt at the last within inches to avoid any stress.
With the 500 points accompanying his win, the Finn charged into the fifth spot of the Totalplay Cup standings. In the race to move up to the Korn Ferry Tour in 2024, Hakula is now only 179 points behind the leader. Conner Godsey remains atop the standings despite a tie-for-54th finish this week.
“I feel like I’ve been playing some really good golf, and obviously this week really showed it. I’m excited to take a couple of weeks off then go to Colombia and Mexico and keep it rolling and really chase that top five and the top spot (in the Totalplay Cup),” added Hakula about the four tournaments left in the 2022-23 schedule.
Did you know that in four prior visits to Ecuador, Toni Hakula had not even finished inside the top 25 at this event? His best finish at the Kia Open was a tie for 33rd in his first start, in 2016. He had made two cuts in four starts here, with a 69 as his lowest round. This time around his low rounds were a 64, a 65 and a 67, with a 76 in between in the second round.
Totalplay Cup Points List
(Through the Kia Open)
|Conner Godsey (U.S.)
|Chandler Blanchet (U.S.)
|Charlie Hillier (New Zealand)
|Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)
|Toni Hakula (Finland)
|Linus Lilliedahl (Sweden)
|Marcos Montenegro (Argentina)
|Matt Ryan (U.S.)
|Jake McCrory (U.S.)
|Leandro Marelli (Argentina)
2022-23 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Player Benefits
2022-23 Final Totalplay Cup Position Reward No. 1 Will receive exempt status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour Nos. 2-5 Will receive conditional status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Nos. 1-5 Exempt into Final Stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament Nos. 6-25 Exempt into the second stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament Nos. 1-60 Exempt through Latin America swing of the 2024 PGA TOUR Americas
Although he missed the chance of forcing a playoff or even winning in regulation with his par-par finish, the runner-up honors in Quito brightened things for Argentina’s Julián Etulain. Starting the season out of his category as a former Korn Ferry Tour champion, he missed the cut in all five of his starts at the next level. Relegated to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, he was coming off a missed cut last week at the Diners Club Peru Open. “I struck the ball really well all week, but today I was able to make a few more putts. The finish was bitter. I was unable to make my birdie putt at the last after three-putting on 17, where I was putting for eagle. I’m pleased because this has been a really weird year for me, as I have struck the ball well, but I haven’t been able to make any cuts,” said the 34-year-old who now holds the 17th spot in the Totalplay Cup standings after opening the week as 95th.
Finishing two hours ahead of the last group, Rafael Becker was ecstatic about his tournament-low, 9-under 63. His crazy round featured 10 birdies, an eagle, a double bogey, and a bogey. “I hit many great shots, but my putting was unbelievable, and that’s because of the amazing greens that we played this week,” said Becker of his terrific finish.
Securing the clubhouse lead at 14-under quite early, Rafael Becker was certain it wouldn’t hold up. “I’m happy with this finish. It’s a week to earn some good points on Tour, so it’s important to have a high finish like this one when I’m playing well,” added the Sao Paulo, Brazil, native who moved from 39th to 20th in the Totalplay Cup standings.
Joining Rafael Becker in the tie for third, Brent Ito seemed to have a chance to do more damage than what his 66 allowed him. The 24-year-old from Davenport, Florida, was at 5-under for the day through 11 holes but only managed to make one more birdie, on 17, the rest of the way. “Great ball-striking day today. I got to 5-under through 11, hit some great shots coming down the line but couldn’t get it quite done. Overall, (I’m) very happy with the performance this week,” said Ito. He opened the season missing five straight cuts and has now had a tie for eighth (at the JHSF Brazil Open), a tie for 21st (at the Diners Club Peru Open) and a tie for third Sunday.
Inside the top 10 for the first three rounds, in which he carded three consecutive 69s, Ecuador’s Juan Moncayo run out of gas on the final day. He ended up carding a 4-over 76 to drop into a tie for 37th, at 5-under for the week. Making the cut at this event a year ago, he had finished in a tie for 34th. “It was a week full of positives. I fought hard till the end and want to thank all the fans who supported me. I felt a lot of love from everybody. After going through this week, I know that I can (play at this level). I wish I had not finished the way I did today, but I have to keep fighting,” said the 27-year old, the only local in action this weekend.
Remaining PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Tournaments
Date Tournament Course Location May 25-28 Colombia Classic Ruitoque G&CC Bucaramanga, Colombia June 1-4 Interrapidisimo Golf Championship presentado por Volvo El Rincón de Cajicá Bogota, Colombia Two weeks off June 22-25 Jalisco Open GDL Atlas CC Guadalajara, Mexico June 29-July 2 Bupa Tour Championship PGA Riviera Maya Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico