2011 eGolf Tour Member Stiles Wins on Web.com Tour; Harman Earns Career-Best T5 at The Barclays
By Stewart Moore
Knoxville, TN – Darron Stiles, a member of the eGolf Tour in 2011, entered the week at the Web.com Tour’s News-Sentinel Open as the tour’s all-time leading money winner, and further cemented his lead in the somewhat ominous category, posting rounds of 67-66-66-67—266 en route to his fifth career title – and his second at the Knoxville, TN event.
Stiles, a Pinehurst, NC native and longtime member of both the PGA and Web.com Tours, entered the week at Knoxville’s famed Fox Den Country Club with just one made cut in his four previous starts. Needing a good week to resurrect what had been an otherwise successful start to the year (four top-10s in his first nine starts), Stiles began in solid fashion, grabbing the event’s 54-hole lead at 14-under 199.
Playing in Sunday’s final twosome alongside Patrick Sheehan, Stiles stumbled early with a missed par putt at the first from short distance, but bounced back soon thereafter with a 30-foot birdie bomb at the par-3 second.
"The key was on number two making a 30-footer for birdie," said Stiles, 39. "That got me settled back down and allowed me to just let my ball striking take over."
A birdie at the par-5 fifth took Stiles to 15-under par, where he remained at the turn after pars on Nos. 6 through 9. On the tee box of the par-5 10th, Stiles glanced at a nearby leaderboard and saw Australian Scott Gardiner had reached 17-under par, thanks to a back nine charge that included six birdies.
"I saw Scotty in at 17-under," Stiles said. "I knew that if I just stuck to my game plan, that if I'm in or close to the lead heading into the back nine that I had a shot at it."
The turning point of the round came with an unlikely chip-in for eagle on No. 10 that put the 17-year touring pro at 17-under and tied for the lead. When he made a birdie on 14 to take the outright lead, Stiles was in the proverbial driver’s seat and in control of the tournament.
Pars on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 brought Stiles to the par-4 18th, where a solid wedge shot approach set up a simple two-putt par that delivered his fifth career Web.com Tour title. It was similar to his first Knoxville title in 2002, when a par at the last allowed the former Florida Southern star to win by one.
"The game plan was to stay aggressive all day and don't deviate from that," he said. "Today was eerily similar to Sunday 10 years ago, in that I had a one-stroke lead with one to play."
The win, worth $90,000, moved Stiles from No. 30 to No. 8 on the tour’s money list with over $200,000 in earnings. His year-long earnings have more than likely solidified his status on the 2013 PGA TOUR, where he was a member in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Two-time eGolf Tour winner Brice Garnett posted rounds of 67-68-70-64—269 to finish T6 on the week, three shots behind Stiles. The former Missouri Western State golfer entered Sunday’s final round in a tie for 22nd place at 8-under through 54 holes of play, six shots off the pace.
Birdies on six of his first eight holes moved Garnett into final-round contention at 14-under par, while back-nine birdies on 10 and 12 escalated his tally to 16-under for the week, and squarely in title contention. Needing to post a torrid red-figure finish to grab the clubhouse lead, Garnett stumbled late with bogeys on 14, 15 and 16 to fall to 13-under par. The Gallatin, MO native closed admirably, notching birdies at 17 and 18 to finish at 15-under for the week – which temporarily gave him the clubhouse lead prior to Gardiner finishing at 17-under just one group later.
The T6 finish marked Garnett’s third top-10 of the year on the Web.com Tour, and pushed his season-long earnings to $90,842, good for 42nd on the money list.
Garnett was a member of the eGolf Tour in 2011, picking up wins at the River Hills Classic and the Southern Open before playing his way onto the Web.com Tour full time, thanks in part to a runner-up finish at the Children’s Hospital Classic. Garnett collected $78,216 in just 11 starts on the eGolf Tour last year, and wound up finishing fourth on the season-ending money list.
Other eGolf Tour players to make the cut in Knoxville include Casey Wittenberg (T10), Kevin Kisner (T14), Dawie van der Walt (T14), James Sacheck (T14), Matt Davidson (T20), Jin Park (T24), Aron Price (T31), Aaron Goldberg (T31), Reid Edstrom (T31), Fabian Gomez (T31), Lee Williams (T31), Steve LeBrun (T41), Brad Fritsch (T41), Hudson Swafford (T41), Ben Martin (T48), Russell Knox (T48), Tommy Biershenk (T48), Kevin Foley (T48), Jerod Turner (T56), Travis Hampshire (T59), Matt Hendrix (T59), David Skinns (T66), Jeff Curl (T66), Philip Pettitt (T66), Alex Coe (T69), Wes Roach (T71) and Bryan DeCorso (73). For complete results from the News-Sentinel Open on PGATOUR.com, please click here.
At The Barclays – the PGA TOUR’s first of four events kicking off the annual Playoffs for the FedExCup – former eGolf Tour winner Brian Harman of St. Simons Island, GA parlayed rounds of 65-75-68-71—279 into a career-best T5 finish. The finish, which marked the first top-10 of Harman’s rookie year on TOUR, came at an ideal time, as the former University of Georgia star moved up to No. 41 (56 spots) in the FedExCup standings.
Harman, a full member of the eGolf Tour in 2010 and 2011, entered the professional ranks in the fall of 2009 with a list of accolades following a stellar campaign as one of the world’s top amateurs. As a two-time member of the U.S. Walker Cup team in both 2005 and 2009, much was expected of the four-year Bulldog “All American” when he joined the eGolf Tour in 2010, and Harman more than held up his end of the deal.
Over his two-year stretch on the eGolf Tour, Harman notched seven top-3 finishes, including his first professional win at The Manor Classic in September of 2010. With over $144,000 in earnings between the two seasons, he ventured off to PGA TOUR Q-School in the fall of 2011, and successfully earned his spot on golf’s biggest stage.
In 2012, Harman exploded onto the national scene with a course-record-shattering 61 in the second round of the Honda Classic, which in turn gave way to a T12 finish. The Savannah, GA native missed four consecutive cuts in May and June, but righted the ship with five consecutive made cuts between the Travelers Championship and the RBC Canadian Open – a streak which included four top-25 finishes.
Harman’s 5at The Barclays was worth $280,000, which pushed him over the $1,000,000 mark in earnings this year, in turn solidifying his PGA TOUR card for the 2013 season. He is currently No. 72 on the TOUR’s 2012 money list.
Former eGolf Tour winners Tom Gillis and William McGirt finished T10 at The Barclays with 72-hole totals of 3-under 281.
Gillis, who won twice on the 2009 eGolf Tour to help resurrect a journeyman’s career in professional golf, posted rounds of 69-72-68-72—281 to record his second top-10 of the year, dating back to a T2 effort at the Honda Classic in March.
The T10 secured Gillis’ spot in next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, moving the Michigan native from 92nd to 57th on the FedExCup points list.
McGirt, who won on the eGolf Tour in 2007 and competed full-time from 2004 through 2009, collected his third top-10 in five starts with rounds of 68-74-67-72—281. The T10 took McGirt from 74th to 46th in the FedExCup points race, putting the Wofford College grad that much closer to eclipsing his 2011 Playoff performance, when he advanced through to the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Other eGolf Tour players to make the cut at Bethpage Black include Josh Teater (T19), Scott Stallings (T24), Roberto Castro (T24), Tommy Gainey (T38), Chris Kirk (T46), Gary Christian (T46), Michael Thompson (T63) and Blake Adams (T65). For complete results from The Barclays on PGATOUR.com, please click here.