Monday, September 28, 2009

Garrett Willis wins at Midland, Texas and books

promotion to US PGA Tour at end of year

Garrett Willis held steady on Sunday and slowly put away the field at the Nationwide Tour's WNB Golf Classic. The 35-year-old fired a final-round 68 at Midland Country Club, Texas to finish at 20-under-par 268, one shot better than Chad Collins, who had blistered the course earlier with a 10-under-par 62.
The win is the second on the Nationwide Tour for Willis and the first since he captured the 2005 Envirocare Utah Classic. More importantly, he picks up a check for $94,500 that assures him of a return trip to the USA PGA Tour next year. Willis jumps 13 places to No. 6 on the money list and raises his season total to $261,506, more than enough to assure him of a place among the Nationwide Tour's 25 top money-winners at the end of the year who will graduate to the Tour.
"It's an almost surreal feeling," Willis said. "I was kind of expecting this grand explosion of emotion and I suppose that will come at some point. This is our job and what we set out to do each year."
Willis owned a two-stroke lead to begin the final round, but by the time he teed off, Collins was already 9 under through 13 holes and was leading by two. When Collins two-putted for par to close out his 62, Willis was making birdie at No. 4 to regain a share of the lead at minus-19.
"I knew, being in the lead, I was going to be in the driver's seat all day. I didn't think the biggest challenge would come from the final groups," said Willis. "I thought somebody would come from way behind us. Typically, guys go low early. There isn't any pressure and they can just fire away. Somebody always posts something low."
Willis bogeyed No. 5 and was trailing by one. He saved par with a 10-foot putt at the par-3 8th hole and then tapped in a short birdie at No. 9 to pull even with nine to go.
"I do watch the leaderboards but I didn't see too many early on," he said. "I saw the one at number nine and knew Chad was in the house at 19. I felt like if I just stayed patient I'd make a couple of birdies. I knew that if I could shoot 1 under on the back I'd be fine."
So, while Willis headed for the back nine and Collins waited to learn his fate, the rest of the field was treading water.
Darron Stiles put on a late rush with a 6-under 30 on the back nine for a a 66 and a 17-under total.
Jin Park closed out a bogey-free 66 to tie Stiles for third, his career-best finish on Tour. Park's previous career-best was a tie for eighth at the 2006 Scholarship America Showdown. He moved up 38 places on the money list from No. 118 to No. 80.
Esteban Toledo also posted a 66 and headed the group at 16 under. He was eventually joined by Keoke Cotner, who was runner-up here a year ago.
Willis' nearest challengers to start the day, J.J. Killeen and Brendan Steele were both struggling and never put any pressure on the leader. They both posted 1-under 71s and tied for seventh.
Willis moved in front with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13. A "rope-hook 5-wood" off the tee at No. 17 put him in trouble at No. 17. His second shot caught a low-hanging branch and he wound up making bogey, reducing his lead to one.
"I really didn't think my nerves were too bad today," he said. "Usually I can get pretty jumpy but I just tried to stay calm, walk slow and talk slow. I was pretty calm out there, especially for me."
Willis was barely off the front of the green at the par-4 18th and needed two putts to close out the win.
"There was no way that first putt was going past the hole," he said of his 35-footer. "When I walked up there I knew I wanted to leave it a little short and right, right up the hill."
Mission accomplished. He left himself three feet of green to win.
"I never thought about winning the golf tournament until the last hole," he said. "It wasn't a gimme but I felt no pressure over it."
John Kimbell made a run up the leaderboard at midday. Kimbell strung together eight birdies in nine holes, including six in a row, starting at No. 4 to get to 15 under par. He birdied No. 16 but stumbled to a closing bogey when he missed the green to the right at the final hole. He settled for an 8-under 64 and a tie for seventh.
Tom Gillis also tied for seventh this week, his sixth consecutive top-10 finish and his seventh of the year. Gillis led the field with 26 birdies this week. He remains No. 4 on the money list.
Jerrod Turner also tied for seventh. Turner started the week as an alternate and didn't make into the field until Tuesday afternoon. He was No. 199 on the money list and knew the only way he'd qualify for next week's Soboba Classic was to finish in the top 25. Turner shot rounds of 67-67-69-70 and earned $14,212. His finish did qualify for next week.
Keoke Cotner tied for fifth this week, his best finish of the year. Cotner was runner-up in this event to Marc Leishmann last year.
Kris Cox, 2005 champion, had a roller-coaster week. Cox posted opening rounds of 67-67 to reach 10 under par and make his first cut in 13 starts this year. He was tied for fifth after the first 36 holes. The weekend turned sour, though, as he shot scores of 76-78 to finish at even-par 288 and tied for 70th.
Chad Collins locked up his US PGA Tour card for 2010 with his third runner-up finish of the year. Collins earned $56,700 and moved from No. 15 to No. 9 on the money list with $255,514.
Second-round leader Fran Quinn fired weekend scores of 74-70 and dropped into a tie for 19th place. Quinn, winner of last week's Albertsons Boise Open remains No. 18 on the money list.
The Nationwide Tour moves to San Jacinto, California this week for the inaugural Soboba Classic, which features the third $1 million purse in the tour'shistory. The tournament will be played Oct. 1-4 at Soboba Springs and will be 26th stop on the Nationwide Tour's 29-event schedule this year.
1 Michael Sim $527,079.
2 Blake Adams $369,499.
3 Chris Tidland $336,572.
4 Tom Gillis $335,429.
5 Roger Tambellini $296,570.



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