WICHITA, Kansas – For a second consecutive week, a PGA TOUR University Class of 2023 alum won their professional and Korn Ferry Tour debut. Ricky Castillo defeated Korn Ferry Tour winners Kyle Jones and Adrien Dumont de Chassart – who also won his professional and Korn Ferry Tour debut last week – on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open Benefitting KU Wichita Pediatrics, becoming the 19th player in Korn Ferry Tour history to win their debut start.
Just 18 days ago, Castillo (pronounced cuh-STILL-ee-oh) went undefeated in match play at the 2023 NCAA Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona as University of Florida won the team national title.
Shortly thereafter, Castillo turned professional and accepted Korn Ferry Tour membership (as well as fully exempt status on PGA TOUR Canada) as the No. 9 finisher in the 2023 PGA TOUR University Ranking.
With only five members of the PGA TOUR University Class of 2023 guarnateed starts each week, though, Castillo figured he would play Monday qualifiers until he earned enough points to gain entry to events via the Korn Ferry Tour Priority Ranking. Last Friday, the Wichita Open offered Castillo a restricted sponsor exemption. Castillo accepted, packed his bags, and split the 18-hour drive from Gainesville, Florida to Wichita, Kansas across multiple days, stopping briefly in Tennessee.
Oddly enough, Castillo got into this week’s field via the PGA TOUR University category following a top-25 by Ryan Burnett, the No. 7 finisher in the Class of 2023, and Dumont de Chassart’s victory at last week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX.
“Just really grateful for the opportunity just to be able to play in this event, and to be able to win is just an awesome feeling,” said the 22-year-old Castillo, the youngest Korn Ferry Tour winner this season. “Just grateful, that’s the only feeling I’m feeling right now.”
Castillo entered the final round T2 and four strokes behind Dumont de Chassart, the No. 3 finisher from the 2023 PGA TOUR University Ranking who was bidding to join Ben Kohles (2012) as the only other player in Korn Ferry Tour history to win his first two starts on Tour.
With birdies on five of the first seven holes at Crestview Country Club (Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 – even more impressive considering the sixth and seventh were two of the four hardest holes on the course Sunday) and another at the par-5 14th, Castillo reached 21-under par and took a two-stroke lead over Dumont de Chassart, who played his first 13 holes at even par.
The script flipped entirely when Castillo caught a tough lie atop a fairway bunker at the par-4 15th. Facing an awkward stance, a short tree in front of him and an uphill lie, Castillo needed to hoist a shot up in the air but still carry the water in front of the green. He lofted it too high and watched helplessly as his ball tumbled into the water. Castillo went on to make double bogey. Behind him at No. 14, Dumont de Chassart made eagle, creating a four-shot swing.
“I was just trying to get it on the green,” Castillo said. “Honestly, didn’t think I hit that bad of a shot, but just didn’t carry far enough. I thought at one point that could have been a shot that I would be thinking about for a long time. Now I’m probably going to forget about that shot tomorrow morning.”
Castillo parred his last three holes and signed for 4-under 66. Playing in the group behind him, Dumont de Chassart missed greens and could not salvage pars at the par-4 15th and 16th, dropping him into a tie for first at 19-under par. Jones eagled the 14th to reach 19-under par and barely missed birdie opportunities at the 16th and par-3 17th.
On the first hole of the playoff, the par-4 18th, Jones sent his approach long and into the gallery, leading to a bogey. Dumont de Chassart hit a drive through the fairway and could only hit a punch shot toward the green; he left his approach in the front greenside rough, and his chip came up roughly 8 feet short of the cup. Castillo hit a “comfortable 9-iron” roughly 15 feet past the hole from 178 yards and a flier lie in the right rough.
After Castillo curled his putt just beyond tap-in range, Dumont de Chassart missed his par putt, effectively securing the victory for Castillo.
Castillo is the fifth PGA TOUR University alum to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, joining two-time winner Pireceson Coody (won third and 14th starts), Trevor Werbylo (seventh start), Davis Thompson (14th start), and Dumont de Chassart. Of those five, Castillo, Dumont de Chassart and Coody won in their debut season on Tour.
The fact Castillo’s victory came on Fathers Day carried extra meaning. Castillo cited his grandma and both his father as perhaps the most important influences on his life and golf career. The puka shell necklace Castillo wears is a nod to his grandmother; he bought it on a childhood trip to Hawaii.
“My grandma made a really huge impact on my life. She started paying for my golf tournaments when my parents couldn’t afford it,” Castillo said. “I just have to thank her and my dad and my parents for, you know, for everything, just being in the position I am today.
“My dad’s been a really huge role model in my life,” Castillo continued. “He wanted me to be a good golfer but he cared more about me being a good person, and I think that was what he really cared about. That’s what I’ve really focused on. Golf is great and everything, but you’re going to be remembered for the good things you do like the Rickie Fowlers and the Jordan Spieths.”
What will Castillo do to celebrate his first professional victory? The same thing he did to start his professional career: pack his bags and hit the road.