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Brandon Harkins may have shot one of the least-talked about best nines of golf of the year.
The 35-year-old Northern California native shot 28 on the back nine at famed Pebble Beach Golf Links in the Pebble Beach Invitational on Thursday. We repeat: 20-frigging-eight! He did so by reeling off eight straight birdies beginning at No. 11. Now, that is golfing your ball.
On a cold, windy day, Harkins got up and down for a ho-hum par at No. 10, his first hole of the 72-hole tournament, before the fireworks began. As he described it, he made a couple birdies and then a couple more.
“The amateur team in my group was like, ‘That’s four in a row.’ I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.’ Then I made a couple more and they said, ‘Jeez, that’s six in a row.’ Then they stopped talking about it,” Harkins recalled in a phone interview. “When we made the turn, I could hear them whispering, ‘That’s eight in a row.’ I was like, ‘Guys, you can talk all you want. That doesn’t bother me.’ ”
Harkins missed a 10-foot birdie at No. 1, his 10th hole of the day. When he birdied the par-5 second, he was 9-under through 11 holes and dreams of 59 entered his head. “I was like, ‘I’ve still got the easy holes coming up,’ ” he said. “But then I became a human being again and started making pars.”
He “settled” for shooting 9-under 63, sticking a few approaches into tap-in range, but also holing a handful of 15-20 footers, some of which were breaking four feet.
“There was a couple-hour stretch where I couldn’t miss,” he said.
Harkins played the PGA Tour in 2018-19, but fell outside the top 150 and was demoted to the Korn Ferry Tour, where he’ll be playing again in the upcoming season after finishing 48th on the 2020-21 money list.
Harkins is no stranger to the Pebble Beach Invitational. He earned an exemption his first time playing the tournament for winning the Monterey Open at Del Monte Golf Course, and has been invited to compete since he moved up the golf ranks.
The Pebble Beach Invitational celebrated its 50th edition last week. Played over three courses – The Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill Golf Course were the others – it featured a unique field with ladies such as Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller and Juli Inkster playing from the forward tees, seniors such as Kirk Triplett, Billy Andrade and Brandel Chamblee, who ended up withdrawing in the second round, playing from a combo of white and blue markers, and up-and-coming pros such as Justin Suh (4th), Isaiah Salinda (T-5) and Austin Eckroat (T-5), playing from the tips.
Harkins, who was born in Lafayette, Calif., raised in the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek and played his college golf at Chico State, knows the rotation of courses in the tournament well from taking lessons from Laird Small, Pebble Beach Academy’s director of instruction, and finished T-15 in the 2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He followed up his opening-round 63 with rounds of 67 at the Spanish Bay, 71 at Spyglass and a 66 at Pebble to shoot 21-under 267 and win the title by two strokes over Alex Cejka and Harry Hall. Harkins wasn’t even sure how much he won, but however much it was — he figured $50,000-$70,000 — it paled in comparison to being able to say he had won a tournament at Pebble Beach.
“Growing up in the area and getting a win there,” he said, “it’s pretty sweet.”
As is shooting 28 and making eight birdies in a row at one of golf’s great cathedrals.