Matt Thurmond, the University of Washington men’s golf coach, rushed home from church early to watch.
They also were watching in Abbotsford, B.C., outside Vancouver.
And Nick Taylor certainly didn’t disappoint the fans around TVs in his hometown, a group that included Angie, his wife of seven months.
In just his fourth event on the PGA Tour, Taylor, 26, won the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., last month to become the first UW golfer to win on the PGA Tour since 1960. Unlike most young players, who seem to collapse when they are leading a PGA tournament in the final round for the first time, Taylor took control in the final nine holes and never let up.
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After beginning the day four shots behind, he won by two shots after overtaking a host of seasoned veterans.
“Nick is more in control, and his swing is smoother when the pressure is the greatest, and that’s a special talent,” said Thurmond, his college coach.
Taylor, who holed one key putt after another on the back nine to retain a comfortable lead, said it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.
“Certainly, there were some nerves off and on, but I felt so confident in my putter,” he said.
Taylor won $720,000 (his previous biggest check was $21,718 for finishing sixth in a Web.com Tour event earlier this year). And just as important, he got a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and now is assured of getting into almost all Tour events for the next year.
About an hour after the victory, Taylor called Thurmond to tell him he couldn’t have done it without him.
“That’s something he didn’t have to do, and it’s not even true,” said Thurmond, who caddied for Taylor at a PGA Tour event after Taylor’s senior season. “He’s such a good guy. He has a knack for getting everyone to feel they are a huge part of it and that’s why there has been such an outpouring after he won.”
There was a lot at stake for Taylor in his final round at the Sanderson Farms event. But he was ready to handle the pressure, after surviving pressure-packed tournaments just to make it on to the PGA Tour. And getting to this point has not come easy for Taylor, even though he left Washington in 2010 as the most decorated player in school history.
Taylor won the Hogan Award his senior year, college golf’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. He was the top-ranked amateur in the world for 21 weeks and made national news when he shot a 65 in the 2009 U.S. Open, tied for the best score by an amateur in the national championship.
But Taylor failed to make it through PGA Tour qualifying school in the fall of 2010, then spent most of the past four years on the PGA Tour Canada and on mini-tours, with limited success and no victories.
“I just wasn’t driving the ball very well,” Taylor said. “It gets pretty discouraging when you are not playing well, but it never got to the point where I ever considered not playing. If I had been playing like I was (in college) it might not have taken me so long (to get to the PGA Tour), but nothing is given in golf. There are just so many great players.”
Taylor wasn’t making much money, but unlike many young players on the mini-tours that wasn’t a big concern for him because he had TaylorMade and Royal Bank of Canada as sponsors.
Last year, Taylor began driving the ball better and his scores went down.
He finished seventh on the PGA Tour Canada money list in 2013, which allowed him a year ago to go straight to the final stage of Web.com qualifying. He finished 11th, earning him exempt status for the Web.com for the first eight events of the season.
To retain his Web.com card, he needed a fast start, which he got with a sixth-place finish in his fourth start.
He needed to play well in his final events of the year to get into the Web.Com Tour Championship. Once he did, he shot a final-round 63 in that event to tie for 21st and earn a PGA Tour card.
His caddie, veteran Mike Darby, told the PGA Tour that it was the best round he had seen under the circumstances.
“If I don’t have that round, I never would have been in the position to win on the PGA Tour,” Taylor said. “I thought back on that round during my last round in Mississippi.”
Taylor had not finished higher than 56th in his first three events on the PGA Tour, but he wasn’t completely surprised that he could make such a big jump.
“I had played well in those tournaments, but one bad round in each event cost me,” he said. “I was starting to play better and the key was that my (worst) round in Mississippi was still 2 under.”
Taylor won’t play again until the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Jan. 9-12 in Hawaii. He said he needs the break to recharge after playing nearly every week for a year and he said he believes he can win again.
“It still hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” Taylor said of winning. “It probably won’t completely until next year.”
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or email@example.com