Tour rookie contending at Sanderson Farms in home state; getting used to Tour following

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After Hayden Buckley fired a career-best 67 Thursday at the Sanderson Farms Championship, his second start since getting a PGA Tour card, he got a glimpse of what life on Tour is like. 

Playing in his home state of Mississippi at the Country Club of Jackson, which is about three hours south of his hometown, Tupelo, Buckley grabbed a smoothie at Smoothie King Thursday night and was recognized by a friend of a friend. 

"I picked up a smoothie last night and ran into a familiar face and we had a mutual friend," Buckley said. "So that was kind of funny, kind of getting recognized a little bit more, I guess that's part of the PGA Tour, but we are in my home state and I guess a lot of guys follow it, it just shows you how many people support you and really follow your career."

The 25-year-old broke his Tour personal best from his first-round with a second-round 12-under 65, placing him T-4, one shot off the lead. If Buckley continues his stellar play he may continue to expand his following and he'd be happy to give his supporters more reasons to cheer. 

Full-field scores from the Sanderson Farms Championship

"You want to entertain, I know at the end of the day we are entertainers and there's so many people that came out to watch so it's nice to give them something to cheer for, you can probably hear it from all over the course," he said. "I know I had a couple guys that they were yelling a little too loud, but it's just so nice to see so many people supporting me and see what I've been doing for the last few years." 

The last few years have been a rollercoaster for Buckley. After being seldomly recruited coming out of high school, he went on to have a standout college career at the University of Missouri, where he was named the 2018 Mizzou Male Athlete of the Year as a senior. 

He then went on to play all 12 Mackenzie Tour events in 2019, winning the ATB Financial Classic and notching conditional status for the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season. Eight months ago he was the first alternate at a KFT event but won the LECOM Suncoast Classic in February and then secured his Tour card with a T-7 finish at the Albertsons Boise Open and a T-4 at the KFT Championship. 

Now Buckley is in contention through 36-holes in Jackson, Mississippi, where he made his Tour debut in 2018 on a sponsors exemption and finished T-63. Two weeks ago at the Fortinet Championship, he missed the cut but took the lessons from his past hardships so he can bounce back quickly and put his state on the map this week. 

"Just for the state of Mississippi, you want to make them proud and you want to have somebody in the mix out there," he said. "So I'm glad it's me. I'm hoping some other guys can join me as well, but it's just what, it's what you dream of. You dream of playing on the highest level of golf, the PGA Tour, in your home state, right in your backyard. So we're having a good time, to say the least."