When news came that Jason Day had recorded his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday (May 23) at the HP Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas, his name likely rang a bell for close followers of the John Deere Classic.
Now 22 years old, Day made his tournament golf debut in the United States at the 2006 John Deere Classic at the tender age of 18. He made the cut at TPC Deere Run, tied for 67th, and cashed a check for a much-needed $8,200.
A native of Queensland, Australia, Day was a force in amateur golf Down Under and was regarded by some as “the next Tiger Woods.” After a standout junior career, Day won the 2006 Australian Amateur Stroke Play championship and played on the PGA TOUR of Australasia.
When he was seeking opportunity in America, he looked to the Midwest and asked John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson for a sponsor exemption.
Day’s first trip to the PGA TOUR winner’s circle took longer than he and others expected. In 2007, he became the youngest winner ever on the Nationwide Tour at the age of 19 and earned his PGA TOUR credentials. In his first full year on TOUR in 2008, he earned $767,393 in official money. Last year, he won $1.25 million, making the cut in 14 of his 18 events and finishing 69th on the money list.
Prior to last week, Day was having a decent if not spectacular year, but he had been rounding into form in recent weeks, posting three top 25 finishes. After Sunday’s victorious conclusion, Day stands 23rd on the official money list with $1.36 million in earnings so far this year.
Day, who tied for 15th last year at the John Deere Classic, plans to return to this year’s event, July 5-11 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.