Mito Pereira earns PGA Tour promotion after winning third Korn Ferry Tour event

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GREER, South Carolina — Mito Pereira said hello to a second-consecutive victory Sunday after winning the BMW Charity Pro-Am following a stellar final round at Greer’s Thornblade Club and goodbye to the Korn Ferry Tour.

The 26-year-old Santiago, Chile native, who played one season at Texas Tech, became the 12th player since the rule took effect in 1997 to earn an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour with a third Korn Ferry victory in one season. The last player to win three times in a year was former Dutch Fork and University of South Carolina standout Wesley Bryan five years ago.

Pereira isn’t in the field for this week’s U.S. Open, but is expected to make his PGA Tour debut at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, beginning June 24th.

“I’m going to celebrate — three celebrations,” Pereira said of how he intends to spend his week off before adding as he laughed, “I’m not going to die, but…”

He won the second event of the extended season in February of 2020 at the Country Club de Bogota Championship before winning last week’s REX Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s the 11th player in the 32-year history of the tour to win back-to-back events. Pereira has now posted 10-consecutive rounds of 68 or lower.

“It’s crazy,” Pereira said of winning in consecutive weeks and earning a spot on the PGA Tour. “I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s just great work and I hope this helps Chile, too. And for sure this gives me more confidence to keep going and try to win on the PGA Tour.”

Pereira (65-63-66-64) tied the tournament record of 27 under after beginning the final round three shots back of leader Justin Lower, who was seeking his first Korn Ferry victory. The initial field played one round each at either Thornblade or The Cliffs Valley on Thursday and Friday before those making the cut played the final two rounds at Thornblade.

Pereira earned $126,000 to boost his season winnings to $586,885 which is second behind Stephan Jaeger. In his last full Korn Ferry season in 2018, Pereira had just one top-10 in 21 starts and finished 129th on the money list with only $37,848.

When asked if he ever thought he’d be in his current situation after that disastrous 2018 when he lost his playing status, Pereira replied, “I would like to say I didn’t have a doubt because everybody has doubts, but I think I did it well with just going back to basics. I started working with a mental coach, started doing the right things and just kept moving and trying to do the best I can every time.”

His 7-under-64 equaled Chip McDaniel for the day’s low round. Lower followed rounds of 64-63-64 with a disappointing even-par-71 for his career-best finish as runner-up at 23 under. Max McGreevy fired a 65 to finish third at 21 under and South Carolina native Tommy Gainey carded 68 to finish fourth at 20 under. It’s the first top-10 for Gainey, 45, since he won the season-opening event in January of 2020.

“I was so focused on doing what I know that I didn’t even feel if I was playing good or not,” Pereira said. “I just wanted to go to the next shot and keep my mind off the pressure.”

Wofford alum Andrew Novak posted a final-round 70 to finish tied for 46th at 11 under. He remains at 17th in the points standings with the top-25 at season’s end earning their PGA Tour card. Clemson alum Billy Kennerly also tied for 46th after Sunday’s 71 and remains 44th in points.

The final round was mostly a two-man battle although McGreevy made a bit of a push with birdies at Nos. 12, 13 and 16 with an eagle at the 15th before completing his round with a double bogey when he missed two short putts on the 18th.

Pereira used a pair of stretches where he birdied three-consecutive holes to first erase Lower’s three-shot advantage and then ultimately take firm control of the tournament. He posted five birdies on the front, including Nos. 7, 8 and 9 to help turn at 4-under-31 to tie Lower whose lone birdie came at the sixth to head to the back one under on the day.

Mito Pereira
Mito Pereira

Mito Pereira stands with his caddie Nany Pereyra as they hold their trophies after winning the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by Synnex Corporation at the Thornblade Club on June 13, 2021 in Greer, South Carolina. Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Both players bogeyed No. 10 before Pereira took the lead for good with a birdie at the 11th and then pulled away with three-straight birdies beginning at the 14th. Lower’s second and last birdie came at No. 16 and he bogeyed the 18th after losing his tee-shot into the right hazard.

“I just kept fighting with my mind to just stay with what I needed to do and get to 18,” Pereira said. “Play the best I can and not think ahead that I’ve already won (when he extended his lead). You never know what can happen, so I managed it really well and I’m really happy with that.”

Pereira hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and 9 of 13 fairways on Sunday.

“I think (my) driver has been really good,” he said. “On this kind of course you just have to drive well every hole and you can be aggressive and make a lot of birdies. I’ll give that to the driver.”

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