Van der Walt carded a final-round, even-par 72 at Highland Springs Country Club on Sunday and finished at 23-under 265, two strokes better than Tour rookie Smylie Kaufman (70).
“I feel very fortunate,” said van der Walt. “I didn’t think it was going to be enough. Everything was just a little bit off, but I’ll take it.”
Dicky Pride (65), Brad Elder (68) and Martin Piller (71) tied for third, three back of van der Walt.
Van der Walt earned a first-place prize of $121,500 and moved to No. 3 on the money list.
“My goal coming into this week was to secure my PGA TOUR card,” he said. “I came to America to play college golf. Also, I wanted to play the PGA TOUR.”
Van der Walt attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, competed on the men’s golf team and earned a degree in applied science. In a few months, the eight-year pro will reunite with former teammates Chris Stroud and Shawn Stefani on the grandest stage in golf.
“Hopefully I can learn from them next year on the PGA TOUR,” said van der Walt, who played a practice round with Stefani and Stroud at The Open Championship in 2014. “I’m excited to see them again.”
Kaufman got off to a great start. The 23-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama birdied the first two holes to pull within two of van der Walt, but quickly cooled off.
Kaufman recorded six straight pars before a bogey on the ninth dropped him three back.
Kaufman made things interesting on the back nine with an eagle at the par-5 11th hole to cut the lead to one, which van der Walt answered with a two-putt birdie. Kaufman didn’t have his best stuff coming down the stretch, but he finished strong with a two-putt birdie on the 72nd hole for a solo second.
“I felt like if I get a good finish here, that would validate me not playing next week,” said Kaufman of his plans to spend the next week at home to recharge. “I really wanted to finish well to secure status for the PGA TOUR next year.”
The stop in Springfield was the 19th of 21 Regular Season events. While 25 TOUR cards will be handed out at the conclusion of the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft, 25 more will be up for grabs in the Web.com Tour Finals.