May 17, 2021
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Paul Barjon never deviated from the plan.
Not after he double bogeyed the opening hole Sunday. Not after the three-stroke lead he carried into the final round of the Huntsville Championship turned into a four-stroke deficit at the turn. Not after his playing partner, Mito Pereira, hit an approach inside of eight feet on the 72nd hole and set up what could have been a tournament-winning birdie. Not even after Billy Kennerly did the same thing on the first hole of a three-man sudden-death playoff.
Barjon stayed the course, stayed patient. The Frenchman played his game, the one he rode to three victories on the Mackenzie Tour, as well as a trio of T2 finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour this season.
And when a defining moment arrived on the third playoff hole, from 210 yards out at the par-5 10th, Barjon struck. He knocked it stiff, buried the eagle putt and captured his first Korn Ferry Tour victory.
“It was definitely one of the best shots. I’ve hit some gimme birdies this week that were pretty nice, but at this time of the day to hit a 210-yard shot to 10 feet is definitely amazing,” Barjon said. “It’s been a close call the last two years. You have to get a little lucky. If you catch a bad break… if Billy (Kennerly) makes his first putt on the playoff hole, it’s over. It tilted my way there, and I made it happen.”
Early on, it looked as though Barjon would come up short again. His approach at the opening hole hit and rolled off the treacherous left side of the green and into the hazard. Barjon made his first double bogey of the week, bringing a multitude of players back into the title hunt.
Barjon bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 4th, but an eagle by Pereira left them tied at 13-under par. As Barjon played the last five holes of the front nine at 1-over par, Pereira made three birdies and built a three-stroke lead (and a four-stroke advantage over Barjon).
“Definitely a rough start. That’s not really what I was planning on,” Barjon said. “I was getting my ass kicked. I just tried to stick to what we said, with my caddie, keep the same clubs off the tee. I didn’t go overly aggressive with the tee shots and it paid off. We hit a couple good shots I actually thought were going to go in. I knew I had a chance still.”
Barjon left himself “gimme” birdies at Nos. 11 and 12. Then Pereira faltered.
As Pereira came back to the field with back-to-back bogeys, Barjon erased a bogey at the par-3 13th with birdies at Nos. 14 and 17, the second of which created a three-way tie for the lead at 15-under par.
Barjon and Pereira both had potential tournament-winning birdie putts miss by a fraction of an inch on the 72nd hole, setting up the playoff with Kennerly, who matched the low round of the tournament with a 7-under 63.
On the first hole of the playoff, Kennerly had the best look for a win. All three settled for par and headed back to the 18th tee. Barjon and Pereira scratched out pars the second time around, while Kennerly’s approach trickled off the back of the green and led to a bogey.
With the playoff down to two, Barjon was first to play from the 10th fairway. He delivered the shot of the tournament.
“It always feels good to win, no matter what Tour you play on,” Barjon said. “It sucks not to win. I would’ve been frustrated. It’s just little things. If you give yourself a putt to win, like on No. 10, eventually it’s going to go in.”
Paired with a quartet of top-three finishes, Barjon’s victory moves him from 15th to sixth in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings, almost assuredly securing his first PGA TOUR card.
With his first Korn Ferry Tour victory under his belt, though, Barjon already has a new plan.
“We’re all competitors, so you want to finish first at the end of the year,” Barjon said. “I want to finish first and get the best status you can get on the PGA TOUR. That’s going to be my goal now.”
There’s no need for Barjon to stay the course anymore. He’s in uncharted territory now.