Claytor finishes 7th in SwingThought Tour event

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ROCKY MOUNT — Young golfers just out of college typically don’t get the opportunity to play on the Web.Com Tour, much less the PGA Tour. Usually they start on one of the “mini tours”.

Such is the plight of Wilson resident and former Barton College NCAA Divison II All-America golfer Daniel Claytor as he continues to chase his dream. Claytor’s most recent quest evolved in a 3-day (Tues-Thurs) 54-hole event at Belmont Golf Club in Rocky Mount during a SwingThought Tour competition.

Claytor recorded rounds of 68-70-70-(8-under par) to finish in a tie for seventh place at 208 for 54 holes. “It was nice to play at home,” said Claytor, a Rocky Mount native and Northern Nash High graduate. “A lot can be expected when you play before a home crowd and on a very familiar course. But I really appreciate all the support that I received.”

Claytor projected before Tuesday’s opening round that 15-under could be the winning tally for the event. He carded a 4-under par round of 68 to start that target but revealed the round could have been much lower. 

“I had six birdies and two bogeys which was okay, but I missed a couple of very makeable putts,” grimaced Claytor.

He finished with birdies on his last two holes and hoped that would propel him for the next two rounds. But he carded consecutive rounds of 70, still good enough for a top-10 finish.

“It was a little disappointing because I always set my expectations so high,” exclaimed Claytor, “but I still got a check.” 

He lamented that slow starts in the final two rounds stifled any momentum.

“I hit the ground running and got out of the gate fast on Tuesday but struggled with slow starts on Wednesday and Thursday,” explained Claytor.

Claytor’s initiated his pro career in 2014 and has enjoyed success to date capturing seven tournament titles during a 14-month stretch. His main objective is to secure one of the Q-school spots to the Web.com Tour.

“When you get a taste of winning, it only makes you hungrier. I know I have the talent and ability to compete on the next level. I just have to put it all together,” cited Claytor.

His next stop on the Swing Thought Tour is Wednesday and Thursday at Bermuda Run Country Club in Bermuda Run, N.C. He also aspires to qualify for a spot in the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro in August.

Claytor lauded the opportunity for Belmont Lake to host the event and for the excellent condition of the course. 

“Tim Wilke (pro) and David Coley (course superintendent) had the course in perfect condition. The fairways, greens and rough were challenging for this type of competition,” said Claytor.

Rocky Mount hasn’t hosted a pro golf event since the ACC tournament was contested at Northgreen Country Club in the mid 1990s.

 “We are really trying to get the word out about Rocky Mount and Belmont Lake,” explained Claytor. “I could see a Monday qualifer or a Web.com Tour event being held here. All the guys this week really raved about the course and the hospitality.”

The winner of the tournament was Blake Kennedy of Atlanta. A Clemson graduate, Kennedy fired rounds of 66-66-67—199 to prevail by five strokes. The win was his first in 10 attempts. Recently married in March, Kennedy was all smiles when presented the $10,000 check.

“Wow, what a great wedding present a win and a nice check. This will make the honeymoon much sweeter,” beamed Kennedy.

PGA Tour member Brendon de Jonge from Zimbabwe was a participant in the field also. He recorded rounds of 2-under-par 71-71-72 for a 14th place finish. He was a former college golfmate of Wilson’s Chris McKeel at the University of Virginia Tech. He has amassed three runner-up finishes on the regular PGA Tour and participated in the 2014 Masters. His only pro victory was captured at the Xerox Classic in a 2008 Web.com Tour event.

He was a member of the 2014 Presidents Cup team and proclaimed that was his most rewarding golfing experience.

“That was great and the fact that I was a participant was really neat,” said de Jonge. “And it was pretty cool playing on Mr. Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Course.