The Wells Fargo Championship wasn’t the only hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat finish on Sunday. About 200 miles southwest of Charlotte at University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, the Nationwide Tour’s Stadion Classic had an ending perhaps just as compelling.
Former UGA golfer and NWT rookie Hudson Swafford followed in the footsteps of his ex-teammate Russell Henley, who captured the title in 2011, to win at his former college golf home course. (See, it’s not overrated!) Heading into the final round, Swafford was three shots back and teed off an hour before the final pairing. However, he holed out for birdie from the greenside bunker on the 72nd hole to fire a course-record nine-under 62, which turned out to be enough to hold off good friend Luke List, who won the NWT event a week earlier.
“I couldn’t see it. I heard it hit the pin and then I heard everybody just go nuts. When I went up there and saw it had disappeared, I blacked out to be honest,” Swafford told the AP. “To hole out a bunker shot to win a golf tournament is amazing.”
“This is unbelievable. My first win is huge and to be in Athens, words don’t describe it,” Swafford said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. The way it happened is a dream come true.
“This is just a starting point. This is no time to get comfortable. I’m still a long way from where I need to be. I’m another win away from getting anything done.”
“I just stuck to my game plan,” he said. I gave myself a lot of chances after that.”
Swafford birdied Nos. 5, 6 and 7 to pull within three strokes.
“Winning wasn’t crossing my mind at that point. The back nine can be penal with all the water, but you can score on it,” he said. “You never know what can happen. This is the craziest game ever.”
Swafford birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 13, then holed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and an 8-footer on No. 17.
“When I was standing on 18 tee I told my caddie we needed to get at least one more,” he said. “I knew Luke had some holes left.”
Swafford’s tee shot found the right rough, and he pulled his 7-iron into the bunker.
“It wasn’t that hard of a shot to be honest, but it just didn’t cut,” he said. “I was actually relieved when I saw it in a flat area and not up against the lip. I thought I could get it up and down but my caddie said, `Shoot, you’ve got to hole it.”
The 24-year-old NWT rookie earned $99,000 for his first tour victory to surge from 61st to seventh on the money list with $122,123. At the end of the season, the top-25 earners will graduate and receive their “diplomas” — 2013 PGA Tour cards.
Another former Bulldog golfer, Harris English, who is a rookie on the PGA Tour, was pumped for his teammate’s big victory. The two are roommates and live in a condo on St. Simon’s Island, along with Gator Todd, who played college golf at Alabama.
Luke List birdied No. 7 to take a share of the lead with Swafford, who was playing the waiting game for over an hour, but hit a tree on his second shot on No. 18 and couldn’t convert for par, closing with a bogey to shoot a six-under 65, 16-under for the event to tie for second. A small consolation prize, List dethrones good pal Andres Gonzales from the top spot on the money list.
Lee Janzen, the 48-year-old two-time U.S. Open champ, shared runner-up honors, putting on an out-of-this-world performance. Janzen shot one-over on the front nine before catching fire on the last nine. He birdied the last five holes and seven of the last eight to also post six-under 65.
In response to a congratulatory tweet, Janzen, who has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, said, “Thanks. Hope the amazing finish in Athens didn’t overshadow the Wells Fargo.”
Not quite, but sounds like it may have rivaled it. Rickie Fowler capturing his first PGA Tour title is almost as big for golf as it gets.
Congrats to last week’s winners and runner-ups.