Nelson Grabs Third eGolf Tour Title With Flawless Final Round at Grand Harbor
Star Fort Head Golf Professional Zach Calhoun, Ryan Nelson, and The Patriot Head Golf Professional Tommy Thomas
By Stewart Moore
Ninety Six, SC – In 2011, Ryan Nelson of Charleston, SC broke through for two wins on the eGolf Tour, earning $83,260 to finish third on the season-ending money list. A sluggish start to his 2012 sophomore campaign came to a screeching halt at this week’s Grand Harbor Open, where Nelson posted rounds of 67-63-71-67—268 to claim a one-shot victory, as well as the event’s $16,000 first-place prize.
The Grand Harbor Open was the 18th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and was contested this week at both The Patriot Golf Club at Grand Harbor and The Golf Club at Star Fort in Ninety-Six, SC.
Through 36 holes at Grand Harbor, Nelson held a share of the lead with Ireland’s Seamus Power, with both players reaching 14-under 130 at the event’s halfway point. A birdie at the par-5 18th to finish off a third-round 71 on Friday gave Nelson sole possession of the 54-hole lead at 15-under par. It was a lead the 34-year-old would never relinquish.
Early-morning storms forced two weather delays prior to the start of Saturday’s final round, which in turn moved the final pairing of Nelson, Power and Drew Weaver from 8:10 AM to 10:35 AM.
“It was tough to warm up, then come in, then warm up again, and again come back in,” said Nelson. “I’ve had some back issues, so my fear was that it would tighten up on me. Fortunately it didn’t and I was able to play well.”
Once on the course, Nelson played brilliant golf, paring the first four holes before posting an eagle at the par-5 fifth to reach 17-under for the week.
“The eagle at No. 5 was great, because all of a sudden I was 2-under through five and off to a good start,” he said. “But, the way this course is playing, you can make up a lot of ground, so I knew I had a lot of golf left to play.”
The eagle helped to give Nelson a 2-under 34 at the turn, which left him one-shot clear of Power, who bogeyed the par-4 ninth to fall out of a tie for the lead and down to 16-under. Starting on the very next hole, however, Nelson took full command of the tournament title.
Birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 13 vaulted the Washington state native to 20-under par and two shots clear of Power, who birdied No. 13 as well to keep pace somewhat at 18-under.
Pars by both players at the par-4 14th brought the day’s final threesome to the par-3 15th, where Power made his second bogey of the day, in turn falling three shots behind Nelson, who pared the uphill one-shotter to remain at 20-under.
Nelson’s lead was trimmed by a shot when Power birdied the arduous par-4 16th thanks in part to a laser-like approach shot that wound up 6 feet from the left-side hole location.
Pars by both players at the par-3 17th took Nelson and Power to the tee of the par-5 18th, where Power hit his second shot from 270 yards to a collection area short and right of the green, while Nelson laid up to 97 yards – in turn leaving himself a simple 55-degree wedge for his third.
“That was a good yardage for me at 18, just a comfortable wedge,” said Nelson, who left his third 12 feet from the hole.
When Power hit his pitch shot to 3 feet right of the hole, all Nelson had to do was two-putt to close out a par for a final-round, bogey-free 67, and his third career win.
“It feels great to win again,” said Nelson. “This was a pretty tough year for me prior to this week.”
The win represents a comeback of sorts Nelson, who entered the week with just one top-10 to his name in 2012 – a T9 at the Oldfield Open in February. Eight top-25 finishes did little to help settle a frustrated Nelson, who thought that 2011’s breakthrough campaign would bring more of the same in 2012.
“When I didn’t make it through Q-School last fall, I was pretty down on myself and spent a lot of time pouting this winter,” said Nelson after the third round. “Then when I didn’t play well to start this year out, I started getting really frustrated.”
The win moved Nelson up to 14th on the eGolf Tour money list with earnings of $38,125, well inside the top 20 – the cut off mark for players looking to earn the tour’s annual Q-School bonus, whereby eGolf pays for PGA TOUR Q-School for the top 20 members on the money list.
Nelson’s bonus at Grand Harbor, however, came in the form of wife Michelle and son Bryce being onsite for his win. Walking off the 72nd green, Nelson picked up two-year-old Bryce for a congratulatory hug that was likely worth more than his winner’s share.
“It was really special to have them here for this,” Nelson said. “I don’t think Michelle has ever been present for one of my wins. She works so hard, so for both of them to make it up here to see me win is really cool.”
Power, a native of Waterford, Ireland, wound up with a final-round 67 of his own, posting a 19-under 269 total to notch solo-second place honors.
Power’s runner-up finish further continued a sensational year for the former East Tennessee State golfer, who now has four top-3 finishes on the year – including wins at the River Run Classic and the Spring Creek Classic. Power’s runner-up check for $9,000 pushed his year-long earnings to $56,132 – good for fifth on the tour’s money list.
Finishing in solo-third place at 16-under 272 was eGolf Tour leading money winner Drew Weaver of High Point, NC, who earned $6,279 for his efforts. The finish pushed his 2012 earnings up to $110,792 – the fifth-highest total ever accumulated in eGolf Tour history (with six events still to play).
Weaver’s fairytale year began in benign fashion, with three missed cuts in his first seven starts and just one top-10 under his belt – a T5 at the Pine Needles Classic in March. Following a missed cut at the Forest Oaks Classic in April, the 2007 British Amateur champion’s took a record-setting turn for the better, as he posted two wins and four runner-up finishes in a seven-week stretch to eclipse the $100,000 mark in single-season earnings – the fastest player to do so in the tour’s 11-year history.
A T13 at the River Landing Open in July gave way to a missed cut at last week’s Championship at Woodside Plantation, but Weaver now appears to be back on his torrid pace, having notched his ninth top-10 of the year.
Stephen Poole Jr. of Aiken, SC and Gator Todd of St. Simons Island, GA finished in a tie for fourth at 15-under 273. Both players earned $5,250 for their respective efforts.
• A special thanks goes to The Patriot G.C. Head Golf Professional Tommy Thomas, The G.C. at Star Fort General Manager Tommy Pendley and Head Golf Professional Zach Calhoun, and their respective staffs for coordinating this event and hosting the tour and our players for the week. Thank you to The Patriot Head Golf Course Superintendent Allen Coursey, Star Fort Head Golf Course Superintendent Tom Taylor, and their crews for their work on both courses this week. Both venues were in fantastic shape from tee to green. Last but not least, thank you to the members of The Patriot and Star Fort for allowing the tour to use your golf courses for the week.
• The tour will be off for the next four weeks before returning to action on September 12-14, 2012 for the Musgrove Mill Classic in Clinton, SC.