Jake Younan goes wire-to-wire to win the 75th Arizona Open Championship

Prior to 2017, only one player in the 73-year history of the Arizona Open Championship went wire-to-wire to win the title. It has now happened in consecutive years after Jake Younan accomplished the feat following his final round 71 at Troon Country Club, good enough for a five-stroke victory over Charlie Beljan and Jesse Mueller. His 54-hole total of 198 is the second lowest total in the history of the Championship.

Younan, 31, from Payson, AZ., began the final round with a five-stroke advantage over good friend Beljan. Riding in the same cart together, the final grouping more resembled match play than stroke play.

Both players alternated bogeys on the first two holes and birdied No. 5 before Younan made the first mistake of the “match” at No. 7, resulting in a double bogey. His lead was down to three with 11 holes remaining.

Younan and Beljan birdied the par-5, eighth hole and parred No. 9. The lead was still three at the turn until Younan bogeyed No. 10 getting Beljan one shot closer.

Beljan, 33, from Mesa, AZ., had eight holes remaining to cut into the two-stroke deficit. Younan had reason to be concerned as he felt Beljan, a PGA Tour member, had a birdie-run left in him.

Playing a group ahead of Younan and Beljan was Mueller, 34, PGA Director of Golf at Grand Canyon University G.C., who began the day eight shots behind Younan. After making the turn with a 34 on the front nine, which included an eagle on the par-4 3rd, Mueller made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 11-13 cutting the deficit down to three strokes.

After Beljan made consecutives bogey’s at Nos. 11 and 12 and at Nos. 14 and 15, and Mueller double-bogeyed the par-3 14th hole, Younan’s lead was back to five with only four holes remaining.

Down the stretch, Younan and Mueller parred the remaining four holes and Beljan only managed a birdie at No. 16. Following the two-putt par on No. 18, Younan had his first Arizona Open title and first Southwest PGA major secured. He earned $12,500 for victory and joins Ronnie Black (1987) and Calum Hill (2017) as the only players to go wire-to-wire to win the title.

Born in Forster, Australia, Younan moved to the United States when he was 18 years old, where he attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, for 2 years, before relocating to Arizona. He is a PGA Associate Member (formally named PGA Apprentice Professional), at The Rim Golf Club in Payson. 

“The players in the Arizona Open are the real deal,” Younan said. “This event has so much prestige and when you look back at some of the names who have won, it’s incredible. That’s why guys like Charlie and Kirk (Triplett) still come home to play because it means so much to them, and it means that much to me and everyone else playing here.”

The runner-up finish was the highest for Beljan in the Arizona Open. The Arizona native last played in the Arizona Open in 2011 at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, where he finished tied for 10th place. Beljan was vying to add his name to the short list of competitors who have won the Arizona Open and Arizona Amateur Championship.

Amateur Brandon Smith, 20, from Las Vegas, NV., finished the final round with a 4-under-par 66. His 54-hole total of 206 left him tied for seventh place and earned him low amateur honors.

Past champions Brian Cooper, 51, from Phoenix, finished tied for seventh and Craig Hocknull, 43, from Gilbert, AZ., tied for 26th.

For more information about the Southwest PGA, visit www.southwestpga.com.