Mito Pereira earns PGA Tour promotion after winning third Korn Ferry Tour event

Mito Pereira won the BMW Charity Pro-Am for his third KFT win this season. He's now a member of the PGA Tour.

Mito Pereira earns PGA Tour promotion after winning third Korn Ferry Tour event

GREER, South Carolina — Mito Pereira said hello to a second-consecutive victory Sunday after winning the BMW Charity Pro-Am following a stellar final round at Greer’s Thornblade Club and goodbye to the Korn Ferry Tour.

The 26-year-old Santiago, Chile native, who played one season at Texas Tech, became the 12th player since the rule took effect in 1997 to earn an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour with a third Korn Ferry victory in one season. The last player to win three times in a year was former Dutch Fork and University of South Carolina standout Wesley Bryan five years ago.

Pereira isn’t in the field for this week’s U.S. Open, but is expected to make his PGA Tour debut at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, beginning June 24th.

“I’m going to celebrate — three celebrations,” Pereira said of how he intends to spend his week off before adding as he laughed, “I’m not going to die, but…”

He won the second event of the extended season in February of 2020 at the Country Club de Bogota Championship before winning last week’s REX Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s the 11th player in the 32-year history of the tour to win back-to-back events. Pereira has now posted 10-consecutive rounds of 68 or lower.

“It’s crazy,” Pereira said of winning in consecutive weeks and earning a spot on the PGA Tour. “I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s just great work and I hope this helps Chile, too. And for sure this gives me more confidence to keep going and try to win on the PGA Tour.”

Pereira (65-63-66-64) tied the tournament record of 27 under after beginning the final round three shots back of leader Justin Lower, who was seeking his first Korn Ferry victory. The initial field played one round each at either Thornblade or The Cliffs Valley on Thursday and Friday before those making the cut played the final two rounds at Thornblade.

Pereira earned $126,000 to boost his season winnings to $586,885 which is second behind Stephan Jaeger. In his last full Korn Ferry season in 2018, Pereira had just one top-10 in 21 starts and finished 129th on the money list with only $37,848.

When asked if he ever thought he’d be in his current situation after that disastrous 2018 when he lost his playing status, Pereira replied, “I would like to say I didn’t have a doubt because everybody has doubts, but I think I did it well with just going back to basics. I started working with a mental coach, started doing the right things and just kept moving and trying to do the best I can every time.”

His 7-under-64 equaled Chip McDaniel for the day’s low round. Lower followed rounds of 64-63-64 with a disappointing even-par-71 for his career-best finish as runner-up at 23 under. Max McGreevy fired a 65 to finish third at 21 under and South Carolina native Tommy Gainey carded 68 to finish fourth at 20 under. It’s the first top-10 for Gainey, 45, since he won the season-opening event in January of 2020.

“I was so focused on doing what I know that I didn’t even feel if I was playing good or not,” Pereira said. “I just wanted to go to the next shot and keep my mind off the pressure.”

Wofford alum Andrew Novak posted a final-round 70 to finish tied for 46th at 11 under. He remains at 17th in the points standings with the top-25 at season’s end earning their PGA Tour card. Clemson alum Billy Kennerly also tied for 46th after Sunday’s 71 and remains 44th in points.

The final round was mostly a two-man battle although McGreevy made a bit of a push with birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 16 with an eagle at the 15th before completing his round with a double bogey when he missed two short putts on the 18th.

Pereira used a pair of stretches where he birdied three-consecutive holes to first erase Lower’s three-shot advantage and then ultimately take firm control of the tournament. He posted five birdies on the front, including Nos. 7, 8 and 9 to help turn at 4-under-31 to tie Lower whose lone birdie came at the sixth to head to the back one under on the day.

Mito Pereira

Mito Pereira stands with his caddie Nany Pereyra as they hold their trophies after winning the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by Synnex Corporation at the Thornblade Club on June 13, 2021 in Greer, South Carolina. Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Both players bogeyed No. 10 before Pereira took the lead for good with a birdie at the 11th and then pulled away with three-straight birdies beginning at the 14th. Lower’s second and last birdie came at No. 16 and he bogeyed the 18th after losing his tee-shot into the right hazard.

“I just kept fighting with my mind to just stay with what I needed to do and get to 18,” Pereira said. “Play the best I can and not think ahead that I’ve already won (when he extended his lead). You never know what can happen, so I managed it really well and I’m really happy with that.”

Pereira hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and 9 of 13 fairways on Sunday.

“I think (my) driver has been really good,” he said. “On this kind of course you just have to drive well every hole and you can be aggressive and make a lot of birdies. I’ll give that to the driver.”

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Matilda Castren becomes first player from Finland to win on LPGA, and does it in her 15th start

Matilda Castren became the first player from Finland to win on the LPGA, emerging from a thick Marine Layer as a rising European star.

Matilda Castren becomes first player from Finland to win on LPGA, and does it in her 15th start

Matilda Castren became the first player from Finland to win on the LPGA, emerging from a thick Marine Layer as a rising European star.

“I knew one day it would be me,” said an emotional Castren, “but you didn’t think it was going to be so soon.”

Castren, who began the day two strokes back of Min Lee, started out blazing hot at chilly Lake Merced, stuffing her approach shots for easy birdies on the first three holes and then converting a short eagle putt on the par-5 fifth. She was 5 under through five holes and looking like someone who’d been in this position one thousand times over. In truth, this was only her 15th start on the LPGA.

“I think a lot of people couldn’t sleep tonight,” said Castren, noting that she teed off at 1 a.m. in Finland.

The seemingly unflappable 26-year-old made the turn in 30 and built a three-shot lead over Taiwan’s Lee, who looked to become the first player to win on the Symetra Tour and LPGA in consecutive starts.

As Castren cooled off with pars on the back nine, the easygoing Lee tightened things up, pulling to within one after a birdie on the par-5 15th.

A short miss for par on the par-3 17th, however, gave Lee her first bogey of the day and put her two back with only the closing par 5 to play. Lee’s eagle putt on the 18th from just off the green from around 25 feet, came up about an inch short and the expressive player dropped to her knees.

Castren then calmly dropped in a final birdie putt to cap off a glorious 65 that put her at 14 under for the tournament, two head of Lee. It was a two-player contest for most of the day, and they only dropped one shot between them.

“I mean, winning a tournament you have to practice,” said Lee, “and this is a great practice. Maybe after couple times I will be there.”

So Yeon Ryu and Hannah Green, both majors winners, finished in a share of third at 8 under.

Castren, a 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie, won seven times at Florida State and collected her first LPGA title on the same day another former Seminole, Morgane Metraux, won on the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour.

Prior to this week, Castren’s career-best finish on the LPGA was a tie for eighth at the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship in Georgia. She tied for 30th at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club.

“I hope it inspires a lot of the younger girls to reach for their goals and just aim high, the sky is the limit,” said Castren. “I think I’m a perfect example of that. I’m the first one to win from Finland, and I bet a lot of people didn’t think it was possible. I had my doubts myself, too.

“But I just want to send a message that anything is possible and just to reach for your goals.”

Celine Boutier bolted up the board with a closing 64 to move into a share of sixth. Jodi Ewart Shadoff hit 18 greens in a final-round 65 that included six birdies in the last eight holes to also vault into the top 10.

Michelle Wie West played the weekend for the first time since coming back from maternity leave. Wie West, who is a member at Lake Merced, shot 69-71 over the weekend to finish tied for 40th.

One week after suffering a heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson finished with a 74 to place tied for 34th.

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