Former Myrtle Beach resident Roberto Diaz had an anxious and stressful Sunday afternoon, but in the end he fulfilled a nearly lifelong ambition by becoming a member of the PGA Tour for the first time.
Diaz finished 25th on the 2017 Web.com Tour regular season money list to earn one of the PGA Tour cards for the 2017-18 season given to the top 25 on the PGA’s feeder circuit.
The 30-year-old is a Mexico native who lived in Myrtle Beach for seven years after graduating from USC Aiken in 2009 and still represents the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy at Barefoot Resort on tour. He moved to Florida late last year.
“I don’t think there are any words that I can say of how I feel,” Diaz said on camera following his round. “It’s a dream come true, obviously. I can’t put it into words how it feels.”
Diaz entered the final regular-season tournament, the WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon, 24th on the money list. But by the time he teed off in the final round Sunday, he was projected to finish 27th, so he needed things to fall into place.
Diaz shot an even-par 70 Sunday to tie for 43rd at 1-under 279, and his standing was ultimately decided about four hours later by competitor Keith Mitchell.
Mitchell, a 25-year-old former Georgia All-American who shot a 62 Saturday to get into Sunday’s final twosome, birdied holes 14 and 15 and needed one more birdie to supplant Diaz at No. 25 in earnings.
He burned the left edge with a 6-foot birdie putt on 16 and left a 20-foot birdie attempt a revolution short on 17. Mitchell would say after the round he was told on the 18th tee he needed to eagle the par-5 18th hole to earn his PGA Tour card, though he needed only a birdie, which would have moved him from a tie for sixth into a tie for second.
Mitchell, who led the tour in eagles this season, blasted a 330-yard drive but pulled his second shot left of the green in short grass. His chip shot raced 20 feet past the hole, possibly because he was trying to hole it for eagle, and he missed the resulting birdie putt and made par to finish 26th on the money list.
Diaz finished the season with $157,823 in earnings, about $6,400 more than Mitchell.
Diaz went back to his hotel room following his round and watched television coverage and checked scores on his phone until the round was over and his PGA Tour card was secured. He then returned to the course to celebrate with the other new PGA Tour members.
It was a long afternoon. I can tell you I have no nails, no nothing. I pressed refresh probably 90 to 180 times. It was a lot of nerves.
“It was a long afternoon. I can tell you I have no nails, no nothing,” said Diaz, who added that he planned to exuberantly celebrate Sunday night. “I pressed refresh probably 90 to 180 times. It was a lot of nerves.”
Diaz had five top-20 finishes this season, including a runner-up finish in the Club Colombia Championship in February and tie for third in the United Leasing & Finance Championship in April.
Others finishing in the top 25 on the money list include South Carolina graduate Kyle Thompson (seventh, $266,312 earned) and USC Aiken alumnus Matt Atkins of North Augusta (19th, $192,029). Diaz graduated in 2009 and Atkins joined the USA Aiken team in 2010.
Diaz now begins the four-event Web.com Tour Finals, where another 25 PGA Tour cards will be awarded and positions on the PGA Tour priority ranking list will be finalized. The priority list is used to set PGA Tour fields each week.
The finals begin Thursday with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio. The final three events consist of the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco (Sept. 11-17), DAP Championship (Sept. 18-24) and Web.com Tour Championship (Sept. 25-1).
The second set of 25 cards will be based on money earned solely in the Finals.
The 2017-18 PGA Tour season begins October 5-8 with the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.