Sam Burns fired a three-under par closing 68 to land his maiden PGA Tour title by three strokes at the Valspar Championship in Florida.
Tied at the top with Keegan Bradley ahead of the final round, Burns opened with two straight birdies and never looked back, posting six birdies in total as he ran out a comfortable winner at 17-under par, three clear of Bradley in second while Viktor Hovland’s final round 65 saw him tie third with Cameron Tringale at minus-13.
“Wow, just what a day,” said 24-year old Burns. “Just so many people that have helped me along the way, really I have so many people to thank that are just behind the scenes that people don’t realise and so I owe a lot of it to them. Man, what a fun day and I’m really glad that we were able to get it done.”
It’s a win that’s been coming for Burns who’s been knocking on the door this season. Ever since his 64,65 opening two rounds at the Safeway Open, Burns has been a prominent figure on leaderboards in 2021.
He faded into seventh on the weekend at the Safeway and he’s tasted plenty more close calls since having been inside the top-5 at the halfway mark of five events this season, including three where he held the 54-hole lead. Did those experiences make getting over the line any easier for Burns?
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think it makes it harder. I think it makes it, you have a better understanding of what it takes and I think having those past chances that I wasn’t able to convert I think it got me ready for this moment. Going into the back nine Travis and I just really wanted to stick to our game plan, stick to the process of just being really engaged on each shot and we were able to do that.”
It could’ve been a different road a long time ago for Burns, too. From football stock, his parents were torn when the young swinger said he’d rather focus his energy on golf than go the football route and play college ball like his father and brother with Louisiana Tech. In the end, there was compromise.
“8th grade year I was just going to play golf only,” Burns recalled. “And we were always a football family and my dad played college football and my brother played college football at Louisiana Tech, both of them. And I was like, you know what, I’m kind of done with football, I would rather just focus on golf. And she was just devastated because that was all she ever knew was going Friday night watching football.
“And I said, ‘Well, mom, how about if I played one more year, we can have a little putting green in the backyard, that way I can still practice after football practice’. She goes, ‘Okay’.
“And so my dad got home from work that day and my mom told him the story and he was like, ‘Well, you agreed to that?’ She was like, ‘Yeah, you know, it sounded like a good deal’. And he was like, ‘Unbelievable, I can’t believe you did that’. But, you know, they agreed to it. So that was good negotiating on my part.”
The negotiating has paid off with Burns collecting a cheque worth $1.24m for his first win on the PGA Tour. Safe to say that putting green paid for itself in time.
“I don’t think I could have dreamed of a better moment just to have my wife there who’s been, we have been together for, not married but together for five or six years, and she’s seen really good golf, she’s seen really bad golf and she’s just been there by my side for all of it. So to have her here was really special. And just a moment that we’ll get to have for the rest of our lives, we’ll get to tell our kids about one day,” Burns added.
“To have my parents here, they sacrificed so much for me growing up, taking me to golf tournaments and letting me pursue my dream, really cool. And also my brother and sister, I’m really close with them, and their husband and wife, too. So it was really cool.”
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