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At Sony, Hayden Buckley feels vibes from life-changing college round in Hawaii

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Last time Hayden Buckley played well in Hawaii, his life changed. Now, after Day 2 of the Sony Open, he's on the precipice of deja vu.

Despite a "miserable start" to his Day 2 round at Waialae, the 26-year-old, in pursuit of his maiden PGA Tour win, shot a 64 and sits T-4, two shots off Chris Kirk's 10 under lead.  

The vibe was similar to the Mississippi native's peak college experience. During his junior year at the University of Missouri in 2017, Buckley had a string of nine birdies and eagled the last hole for a second-round 11-under 61 at Makai Golf Club in the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational. 

Prior to that round, Buckley barely had Tour aspirations. He was a high school baseball player, but entering college, he was given an ultimatum by his school. 

Full-field scores from the Sony Open in Hawaii

"They made me choose between the two," Buckley said Friday after his round at Waialae. "(Golf and baseball) are both in the spring, so they decided — you make the choice, and I didn't think I was going to make it in baseball being as small as I was, and I think I made a good choice."

However, he was lightly recruited to play college golf, so when he went to Missouri, Buckley walked onto the golf team. 

Still, his main focus was on achieving his health science degree. Then, his 61 at Makai changed everything. 

"I was studying harder than I was practicing," Buckley said. "I was actually planning to potentially work a good job, and I didn't figure it out until about my junior year of college. That's when things started to click a little bit. 

"Senior year, that 61 in Hawaii, that was when it was kind of validated that I could do it, but my junior year is probably when I really wanted to pursue it."

With his studies taking a backseat, Buckley was named the 2018 Mizzou Male Athlete of the Year as a senior and claimed four college titles. Four years later, after winning on the Mackenzie and Korn Ferry tours, Buckley was a Tour rookie, something he couldn't have imagined a half-decade earlier. 

One day in Hawaii changed his life, and maybe, after another two rounds in the Aloha State, Buckley will be a Tour winner — his life, again, forever altered. 

"(That 61) was one of those days, kind of felt like today, where I felt like I had a look on every hole," he said. "Just all the putts went in that day."