The big question heading into the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic was this: how would Nate Lashley handle the moment? With just one top 10 in his US PGA Tour career, having a large 54-hole lead was new territory for the 36-year-old journeyman. Then again, Lashley has been through much tougher things in his life, things that make winning golf tournaments seem small in comparison.
So maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising to see that Lashley was completely unfazed, as he birdied two of his first three holes at Detroit Golf Club to extend his huge lead and never looked back. He finished with a two-under 70 to win by six strokes, going wire-to-wire for his first career PGA Tour victory.
"Just really thankful I got into the tournament, really."
After getting in the field as an alternate on Wednesday, Nate Lashley leaves Detroit as a PGA Tour winner.pic.twitter.com/lw5jiT11HH
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 30, 2019
“Just really emotional right now,,” said Lashley holding back tears. “Just really thankful that I got into the golf tournament, but I mean, winning on the PGA Tour has always been a dream and getting that done today is a great accomplishment and I’m just really happy.”
Earlier this week, Lashley attempted to Monday qualify for the inaugural event and came up short, making him one of the first alternates if anyone withdrew prior to the tournament. Lashley got a bit lucky when David Berganio Jnr pulled out, giving him the final spot in the field. He took advantage, becoming only the second player to go wire-to-wire with no ties this season. The other? Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship.
Lashley, who lost his parents and his girlfriend in a tragic plane crash in May 2004, had his sister and his current girlfriend on hand to watch in Detroit.
“It’s great, having my friends and family here, there’s a lot of them that flew in. Can’t ask for more, I’m ready to celebrate with them.”
There’s plenty to celebrate for the Nebraskan in addition to the maiden victory. With it comes a full exemption on the PGA Tour through the 2020-2021 season, plus invites to the Open Championship this month, and the 2020 Players Championship, Masters Tournament and PGA Championship. He’ll be making his first appearance in all four of those events.
“It’s huge, when you win and you get two years and all this confidence going. Job security is huge, getting to play in the Masters is something everybody dreams of, just getting to play the course let alone the tournament. I just couldn’t be more happy right now.”
Finishing alone in second place was 2017 US Amateur winner Doc Redman, who has spent this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. But thanks to this result he earns special temporary PGA Tour status for the rest of this season, plus a spot at Royal Portrush for The Open.
Rory Sabbatini and Wes Roach tied for third place, while Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Reed were among a group that tied for fifth. Cameron Smith’s tie for 29th was the best result by an Australian.