It's never easy, but it's even harder at the Winco Portland Open.
Bo Hoag shot a final round 65 en route to his first Korn Ferry Tour title, and in the process earned his PGA Tour card as part of The 25, joining 24 other graduates Sunday, Aug 11, in securing PGA Tour membership for the upcoming 2019-20 season.
Hoag navigated Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course's Witch Hollow course without a bogey over his final round — including birdies on his final two holes — to edge Oregon native Scott Harrington by two.
"It's a life-changer," Hoag said. "You picture what you're going to be doing after your round … either back here getting a card on this green or packing your car up to go home. I just told myself I wasn't going to leave here this evening without getting a card on this green."
Hoag, along with Harrington, were two players outside the top-25 in the Korn Ferry Tour point standings entering the week that earned their cards. Hoag started the week 31st, while Harrington was 38th and rose to 19th with his second place finish.
Harrington, 38, was the leader entering the day and needed at least a solo-third finish to earn his first PGA Tour card. He got off to nice start, birdying two of his first four holes en route to a two shot lead before bogeys on holes seven and nine brought him back to the field. He birdied holes 11 and 13 to regain a share of the lead with Hoag, but bogeys at 14 and 16, coupled with Hoag's fast finish, ended his winning hopes but led to something far more valuable — an exemption on the PGA Tour.
"When they first started this event (in 2013), the first thing I thought of was how special it would be to get my first PGA Tour card here in Portland," Harrington said. "I have so many great memories here. To do it with my family here — they've been watching and following and supporting me my whole career — is amazing. You couldn't write a better script."
The reward — which was in a familiar place for the Jesuit High School graduate — meant even more for Harrington with his wife, Jenn, in attendance. Jenn was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2016, has twice endured chemotherapy and is now cancer-free. She flew in on Saturday night and watched Harrington earn his card.
"I've learned there's so much more to life than my golf," he said. "I've always gotten consumed in my career, but I've learned so much the last two years about what's really important.
"A lot of focus has been put on us, but what she's been through has been hell. It was rough for me, but it pales in comparison to what she's had to go through. Family trumps golf. To have her in attendance is that much more meaningful."
Hoag, a 31-year-old Ohio State University alum, along with Harrington, were far from alone in the hunt for the title — as many as five players were tied for the lead on the back nine. The former Buckeye has competed on the Korn Ferry Tour each of the past three years and was a member of the Mackenzie Tour from 2013-15.
Vincent Whaley, a rookie from Atlanta, earned the 25th and final PGA Tour card despite missing the cut at Pumpkin Ridge. The Georgia Tech alum waited for two excruciating days to see if he'd earn his card, and upon completion was able to celebrate with his peers as part of The 25 during a ceremony on the 18th green.
"Honestly, I probably had the worst two days of my life trying to figure it out, doing the math and being a complete psychopath," Whaley said. "It was a horrible two days, but it worked out … I'm just really happy right now."
Harrington, whose Sunday score of 69 was his worst of the tournament, still impressed considering what was riding on the outcome. He hit some clutch putts on the back side and held together when the top of the leader board was getting more crowded by the minute.
"I felt better today than I did yesterday," he said. "I felt really nervous yesterday. For me to post the score I did, dealing with those kind of nerves, gave me a lot of confidence today."
Yet, Jenn expected nothing less.
"He persevered today," Jenn said. "He was pretty calm, which is Scottie. That's just how he is. I can't think of anyone who works harder. We're really excited for (the PGA Tour) next year, and for the (Korn Ferry Tour) playoffs this year."
The perseverence is the other major part of the Harrington story. Scott has played in only four PGA Tour events through his long pro career, with the rest of the time being spent on the PGA Tour's minor league circuit. When Harrington started in 2003, it was called the Nationwide Tour. Then it became the Web.com Tour, and now it's the Korn Ferry Tour.
Harrington is one of its oldest members and has been after his PGA Tour card so long, he could have lost faith. But he never gave up.
"This validates a lot of things," he said. "I've always known that I belong out there. I have the game. I can't wait to get started."
After two phenomenal shots and a tap-in birdie at No. 18, he dropped into a deep knee bend, looking down at the ground with his face in his hands for maybe half a minute, soaking in the moment.
"I was thinking about everything," Harrington said. "My whole journey. Everything I've been through in my career, and everything we've gone through as a family.
"It just all hit me very hard. It was a really great feeling, and I'll never forget it."
Chris Baker, who — like Whaley — also missed the cut this week, finished as the odd man out at 26th in the points standings. Baker, along with the rest of the top 75 players in the standings, will advance to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals where they, along with PGA Tour players who failed to finish inside the PGA Tour's top-125, will attempt to earn one of 25 additional Tour cards for next season.
China's Xinjun Zhang, who finished T43 this week, retained the top spot in The 25. The top points-earner after the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance will earn fully exempt status and an exemption into the 2020 PLAYERS Championship.
Kerry Eggers contributed to this story.
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