After years of scrambling around the world of professional golf, it finally paid off for Wes Homan.
The Cincinnati golfer sank a five-footer for birdie on the 18th hole Sunday at Whitewater Golf Club, clinching his first PGA Canada Tour victory and becoming the first winner of the Staal Foundation Open.
Homan fired a one-under 71 on Day 4 of the event, his father Chip walking every step in the gallery, his 271 total good for a one-shot win over England’s Greg Eason.
An emotional Homan called it a great day.
“It’s more a sense of relief (for) all the hard work I know I’ve been putting in and sometimes people don’t,” he said, after accepting the trophy from Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, whose family foundation sponsored the first-year tournament.
“It was amazing. It felt great to make that putt.”
Eason, who began the day two shots back, didn’t give Homan an easy path to victory.
After falling four shots back after bogeying the par 5 third, the Englishman slowly crept back into the thick of the battle, birdying the seventh and 12th to make it a one-shot deficit.
With a boisterous crowd shouting “Go get him, Big E,” Eason stuck his approach shot on the short par 4 16th, but Homan was not to be outdone.
Both players sank their birdies, parred the 17th and headed for the finishing hole, Eason in search of a playoff.
He put the pressure on, dropping his chip to about a foot, the gimme birdie forcing Homan to get up and down from an uphill lie at the side of the 18th green, hundreds of spectators ringing the putting surface to catch the drama.
But Homan had the answer, lipping his chip out for eagle and leaving himself a makeable putt to clinch the win.
“I tried to convince myself I didn’t care,” Homan said. “I just kind of freed myself up. I’ve been hitting good chips all week and even over on the practice green been working on that.
“That last putt was great. I said just because I’m nervous doesn’t mean I can’t hit a good one. And I made a great putt and it went in.”
The win was worth $27,000, just his third top three finish in four years on the PGA Tour Canada. He’s now earned $35,692 in 2014 and moves into the top 5 on the order of merit. The top 5 at season’s end earn their Web.com Tour playing card.
“It’s huge. Every shot counts. I doubled 18 last week and that might cost me down the line. This isn’t going to change my life, but it’s definitely a step toward where I want to go,” the 33-year-old said.
Playing partner Jeffrey Corr was third, coming in at 11-under 277. The top Canadians were Ted Brown and Cory Renfrew, who tied for seventh at nine-under.
Vermilion Bay’s Jordan Krantz shot 71 in his final round and finished at -5, tied for 28th.
The tournament was about more than golf.
Organizers presented a trio of charities – Camp Quality Northwestern Ontario, Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation’s Exceptional Cancer Care Campaign with a cheque totalling $112,000.
That’s why the Staal Family Foundation got on board.
“It was embraced a lot by the community and hopefully it will continue to grow as we move forward,” Eric Staal said, joined by brothers Marc and Jordan for the trophy presentation.
“We were able to give back $112,000 to some great organizations and that’s why we got involved. We’re excited about that and hopefully more sponsors and more people jump on board next year and we’ll be able to donate even more. It was a lot of fun, great golf to watch and a great event to be a part of."
Notes: Tournament officials estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 people attended the week-long event ... A birdie on No. 18 earned Josh Persons a spot in this week's RBC Canadian Open. The top 3 on the order of merit got in. Joel Dahmen and Timothy Madigan had already secured spots. Persons, who tied for 11th, edged out Matt Harmon, who missed the cut. Persons needed a tie for 14th or better to get in.
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