Malnati an emotional winner at Valspar tourney

Peter Malnati uses a yellow golf ball to win the Valspar tourney. (Joy Sarver Photo)

PALM HARBOR, Florida — The winners at PGA Tour events are frequently emotional, but Peter Malnati was in tears immediately after his last putt dropped at the Valspar Championship on Sunday.

Malnati, 36, won his second title nine years after his first.  He had qualified for only three major championships and never made it to the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

This year he had four missed cuts and only one top-10 finish while doubling as a recently-named Player Director on the PGA Tour Policy Board. That has put him in the forefront of the complicated negotiations over the proposed merger with the Saudi-based LIV Golf League.

While that’s a time-consuming extra job Malnati had been better known as one of the few players to use a yellow golf ball.  He switched from white to yellow balls because one of his sons “liked them.’’

“He’s gotten over it now,’’ said Malnati, holding one son while fighting back tears during his first post-round televised interview.  “But it still makes me think of him.’’

Malnati, along with his wife Alicia, attended the University of Missouri before Peter turned pro in 2009. They have two sons – Hatcher and Dash. They were more in the spotlight at the Valspar, which offers an unusual opportunity for players to put what they want on their caddy’s bibs.  Malnati chose honor his sons.

Keith Mitchell started the day with a two-stroke lead on Malnati, who was in a three-way tie for second.  Mitchell faded to a 77 in the final round while Malnati shot 67 and won by one stroke over Cameron Young. Malnati posted a 12-under-par 272 for the 72 holes and earned $1,512,000.

“That moment of winning a tournament and have your family come out on the green, the big hugs and all that, that’s something I’ve seen other families have and that has been my dream,’’ said Malnati.  “ There’s been a lot of stretches in golf over the last nine years when I wondered if I’d ever have that experience. It feels completely surreal.’’

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, who led the tournament after Round 1 and was tied for the lead after Round 2, shot 73-72 on his weekend rounds and finished in a tie for 28th with, among others, Northwestern alum Dylan Wu. It was Streelman’s best finish of the season. Defending champion Taylor Moore tied for 12th.