When asked what he was going to do to celebrate on Sunday night, Matt McQuillan was stumped.
I really don't know yet, I'm sure I'll find something, the Kingston-born golfer said. I've still got to come off Cloud 9 here a little bit.
Forgive the PGA Tour rookie for being a bit confused about his next step. In a stunning performance, McQuillan tied for third at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., after shooting a sizzling seven-under-par 64 in the final round at TPC Deere Run. McQuillan, who was 17-under for the tournament, tied for the best Sunday round at the event.
Not bad for a professional journeyman, 30, who entered the tournament having missed 10 cuts in a row. His only previous cut made came in his tour debut in Hawaii in January when he tied for 54th and picked up US $12,705.
His second PGA paycheque was slightly larger $261,000, the top prize earned by a Canadian on the tour this season. McQuillan's top previous pay-day was $24,000 Cdn for a win at a Canadian Tour event in Edmonton in 2005.
I didn't know the number. That's awesome, McQuillan said when told how much he had earned during a phone interview after his round.
How much of a long shot was the PGA Tour qualifying school graduate? McQuillan came into the week at No. 1,176 in the world golf rankings, just 25th among all Canadians.
Just three years ago, McQuillan was out of the sport, serving pizza and drinks at a Kingston restaurant.
I knew this was possible, but a couple of years ago I didn't really see it happening, McQuillan said. I knew when I got back into golf a couple of years ago it was possible, but I'm surprised it happened this early.
Tied for 14th and 10 strokes off the lead entering Sunday's play, McQuillan said his goal was to make it into the top 10. To do that, he figured, he'd need to shoot four- or five-under.
I had a good start, just like the first day (when he also shot 64), and I could of rolled from there, said McQuillan, who made five birdies and no bogeys on the front nine on Sunday.
McQuillan made a couple of testy par putts over the next five holes before notching another birdie on No. 13. After three more pars, the Canadian's shot of the tournament came on the par-5 17th.
Putting for eagle from 35 feet out on the fringe, McQuillan stepped up and drained it.
I told my caddy on the tee if we could (score birdie) on one of the last two, we could get a top five out of it, McQuillan said. To see that go down for eagle was a real bonus.
Heading home, McQuillan fired his tee shot on the par-4 18th into the rough, forcing him to just bat it out on to the fairway.
But from 156 yards away, McQuillan drilled it to within five feet and proceeded to save par. That putt ended up earning him close to $100,000.
I didn't know the exact stakes of it, but I knew it was a pretty expensive putt, McQuillan said. I calmed myself down and just put a good stroke on it and it went in.
McQuillan didn't notch one bogey on Sunday for the first time in the tournament.
American Steve Stricker won the John Deere for the third year in a row by nailing a 25-foot birdie putt from off the green at No. 18 to finish at 22-under.
As it turns out, McQuillan wasn't far off from earning the final spot in next week's British Open awarded to the top player at the John Deere not already exempt in the major, runner-up Kyle Stanley (21-under).
But it's not a big deal for McQuillan, who has a spot in the PGA Tour's Viking Classic this week in Mississippi. Then, it's off to the RBC Canadian Open in Vancouver. The John Deere was the first of five consecutive tournaments for McQuillan on the PGA Tour.
A lot of the top players are going to be at the British Open, so this is another good opportunity to try to get a good finish and get the ball rolling heading back to Canada, McQuillan said.
It proves I can compete out here, McQuillan added of the latest result. If not for a couple of bad finishes (to rounds on Friday and Sunday), I'm right there (battling for the lead).
With the big paycheque, McQuillan jumped to 153rd from 241st on the tour money list. The top 125 players at the end of the year retain their tour cards.
I heard early in the year a lot of guys make most of their money at about six tournaments, McQuillan said. I have plenty of tournaments left. If I can make a little run, gain some more confidence and make a few putts, it's definitely possible (to get into the top 125).