By Murray Evans
EDMOND – Like all pro golfers, Casey Fernandez of McAlester is trying to climb to the next level, and after three years of bouncing around mini tours, he was starting to wonder how he was going to do that financially.
But by holding off Web.com Tour veteran and current China Tour star Charlie Saxon down the stretch Saturday in the final round of the Oklahoma Open, Fernandez earned the largest paycheck of his pro career – a cool $10,000 – that will help pay for expenses as he begins the long, arduous journey through Web.com Tour Q School in a few weeks.
Fernandez shot a 2-under-par 68 at Oak Tree Country Club’s East Course in the final round and closed at 11-under 199 for the three-round tournament, three shots better than Saxon, who posted a 70 on Saturday.
Saxon entered the day just one shot back and tied Fernandez three times during the round, but Fernandez – a former Southern Mississippi standout – never seemed flustered and never lost the lead.
“I just drew back on some past experiences winning,” Fernandez said. “Obviously it’s different in pro golf than it is in college, but I know I can only control what I do. If I did what I needed to do, I knew I should win. I just stuck to my game plan and did what I needed to do. I was really happy with the way I controlled myself out there, especially the last few holes. They’re pretty tough.”
Fernandez earned second-team All-Conference USA honors at Southern Miss in 2015 and has played events wherever he could since turning pro – such as on the Adams Tour, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and on the FairWay Tour, on which he won a one-day event on July 14 at Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course in Kingston.
“I’ve been playing anywhere I could really play, to be honest,” he said. “This (win) helps out a lot. I’ll be able to sign up for Web Q School now and it’s going to free up some stuff to pay for some trips this fall.”
Both he and Saxon – a former Oklahoma standout from Tulsa – shot 64 in the opening round at the Oklahoma Open on Thursday and Fernandez posted a 67 on Friday. With the next closest competitor five shots back to start the final round, it felt a bit like a match-play final and played somewhat like one, too.
A 10-foot birdie putt at No. 7 pulled Saxon even with Fernandez at 9-under, but Fernandez – who parred the first seven holes – responded with a birdie at the par-3 No. 8, sinking an 8-foot putt while Saxon missed from 10 feet and parred the hole.
Fernandez over-hit his approach shot on the par-4 No. 10 and bogeyed the hole, while Saxon parred, again pulling him even. Again, Fernandez had an answer, overcoming an errant tee shot on the par-4 No. 11 to make a 15-foot birdie putt to move back to 10-under.
Saxon just missed a 40-foot eagle putt on the par-5 No. 12 and tapped in for birdie to again pull into a tie for the lead, but moments later, Fernandez also birdied the hole to go to 11-under and Saxon wasn’t able to catch him. A bogey at No. 13 put Saxon two shots back and he finished with four pars and a bogey.
“I gave myself looks all day,” Saxon said. “I had putts but I just couldn’t convert. The momentum putts, where I could have drawn even or pulled ahead, I couldn’t hole those putts and Casey just kept making pars and pars and birdies when he needed to. He played really solid.”
On Sunday, Saxon will catch a flight back to China, where he’s leading the Order of Merit standings on the China Tour. That tour’s top earner will receive full Web.com Tour playing privileges for 2019 and Saxon likes his chances of returning to that Tour, on which he played in 2017.
“We’ve got five events left (on the China Tour) and I’ve got a pretty good lead, so I just need to keep playing nice golf and hopefully I’ll end up winning,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fernandez wants to join Saxon on the Web.com Tour soon, and he hopes he can ride the momentum generated by winning the Oklahoma Open through the next few months.
“I’ve got some status on the Latin American Tour, so hopefully I can get into a lot of events this fall and continue my good play,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll play well (at Q School) and make it onto the Web next year. That’s the goal.”
Oklahoma Golf Association Oklahoma Open August 23-25, 2018 Oak Tree Country Club (Par 70) Final Results Casey Fernandez, Durant, OK - 64-67-68 -- 199 Charlie Saxon, Edmond, OK - 64-68-70 -- 202 Rafael Becker, Dallas, TX - 66-70-69 -- 205 Chase Hanna, Leawood, KS - 66-72-67 -- 205 Luke Kwon, Carrollton, TX - 67-72-66 -- 205 Ian Davis, Edmond, OK - 68-71-67 -- 206 Fred Wedel, The Woodlands, TX - 72-67-68 -- 207 Joseph Gunerman, Apollo Beach, FL - 69-70-69 -- 208 Brendon Jelley, Tulsa, OK - 67-70-71 -- 208 Max Mcgreevy, Edmond, OK - 71-68-69 -- 208 Todd Rossetti, Sachse, TX - 68-71-69 -- 208 Preston Stanley, Katy, TX - 71-66-71 -- 208 Chris Brown, Garland, TX - 71-70-68 -- 209 Ben Hargis, Dallas, TX - 70-69-70 -- 209 Stratton Nolen, Austin, TX - 70-72-67 -- 209 Joel Thelen, Hudson Oaks, TX - 69-72-68 -- 209 Derek Chang, Dallas, TX - 67-70-73 -- 210 Corey Hale, Edmond, OK - 72-70-68 -- 210 Luke Phillips (A), Edmond, OK - 69-73-68 -- 210 Andrew Presley, Fort Worth, TX - 69-73-68 -- 210 Sean Romero, Texarkana, AR - 68-72-70 -- 210 Trevor Sluman, Delray Beach, FL - 68-71-71 -- 210 Ian Ansett, Canyon, TX - 71-69-71 -- 211 Phillip Bryan, Mustang, OK - 67-72-72 -- 211 Will Kropp, Edmond, OK - 65-73-73 -- 211 Jace Long, Frisco, TX - 69-70-72 -- 211 Marty Sanchez, Santa Fe, NM - 69-72-70 -- 211 Ty Stites (A), Sallisaw, OK - 70-71-70 -- 211 Dillon Rust, Edmond, OK - 73-66-73 -- 212 Cameron Bishop, Wichita, KS - 72-69-72 -- 213 Garrett Fey, Mesquite, TX - 72-69-73 -- 214 Nick Heinen, Edmond, OK - 69-70-75 -- 214 Mason Horner, Argyle, TX - 70-69-75 -- 214 Jackson Ogle, Edmond, OK - 72-68-74 -- 214 Stephen Carney, Tulsa, OK - 71-69-75 -- 215 Matt Gurska, Hermitage, PA - 73-69-73 -- 215 Andrew Hudson, Fort Worth, TX - 71-68-76 -- 215 Kyle Pilgrim, Colleyville, TX - 71-71-73 -- 215 Jared Cody, Champions Gate, FL - 70-69-78 -- 217 Zander Winston, Richardson, TX - 69-71-77 -- 217 Brody Davis, Edmond, OK - 68-72-78 -- 218 Joel Driver (A), Oklahoma City, OK - 70-69-79 -- 218 Cameron Meyers, Edmond, OK - 71-71-76 --218