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Nick Lashley, an alternate with a tragic story, wins his first PGA title

Nate Lashley walked into the Rocket Mortgage Classic as an alternate and walked away with his first PGA title.Associated Press

Nate Lashley completed an unlikely wire-to-wire victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday for his first PGA Tour title.

Lashley closed with a 2-under-par 70 to finish at 25-under 263 and win by six shots, the margin he took into the day after rounds of 63, 67, and 63.

‘‘It was surreal,’’ Lashley said ‘‘I didn’t know what to think. There was a lot going through my mind.’’

The 36-year-old Lashley’s parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash 15 years ago returning from watching him play in a college tournament. He dabbled in real estate after graduating from the University of Arizona, started and subsequently quit playing professional golf, then later resumed playing in the PGA Tour’s minor leagues. He made his PGA tour debut last season.


‘‘Without my parents, I wouldn’t have started playing golf when I was little,’’ said Lashley, who began playing when he was 8. ‘‘They did everything to help me have a career.’’

Monday qualifier Doc Redman shot a 67 to finish second. Rory Sabbatini (68) and Wes Roach (68) were another stroke back.

Lashley, the 353rd ranked player in the world, slipped into the PGA Tour’s first event in Detroit as an alternate Wednesday. He took full advantage, shooting a career-low 63 in the first round to take a lead he refused to lose at Detroit Golf Club. He stayed atop the leaderboard with a 67 on Friday and gave himself a cushion with a 9-under 63 Saturday.

On the brink of breaking through during his second PGA Tour season, his sister, girlfriend, buddies and family friends flew to Detroit to join him.

Brooke Lashley, who lives near her brother in Arizona, was awestruck as fans followed and cheered for her little brother from tee to green.

‘‘I'm sure a lot of these people didn’t know him a couple days ago,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s doing all he can to focus, but this is so incredible. It’s foreign to him because he’s never had this much attention. He’s never played in front of a gallery like this with TV cameras all over the place.’’


In 2004, parents Rod and Char Lashley and girlfriend Leslie Hofmeister, all of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, were missing for three days before their bodies and the wreckage were found near the 13,780-foot Gannett Peak in Wyoming after watching him play in a tournament for the University of Arizona.

‘‘It rocked our community,’’ recalled Helen Reinhardt, a family friend from Nebraska.

Reinhardt and her husband, Jim, boarded a charter plane in Nebraska that stopped in Minnesota to pick up Lashley’s girlfriend and arrived in the Motor City on Sunday.

‘‘It’s great to be here to watch his dream come true after watching him play in the Dakotas Tour and work his way up to here,’’ said Jeff Peck, one of about a dozen of Lashley’s friends at Detroit Golf Club.

Lashley made a living as a real estate agent after graduating from Arizona and his playing career started, stopped and resumed again. He won the Waterloo Open, a professional tournament, in Iowa in 2011 and quit competitive golf the next year.

When Lashley was flipping houses, he thought his playing career was over.

Lashley gave the game another shot, playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica circuit in 2015 and moved up to what is now called the Korn Ferry Tour two years later.


‘‘The Latin American tour changed his trajectory,’’ Brooke Lashley said. ‘‘It was tough with all the travel to a lot of different countries, but it gave him the chance to get here.’’

LPGA — Sung Hyun Park two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th to win the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship for her second victory of the season and seventh overall.

The 25-year-old Park is projected to move from second to first in the world ranking Monday, taking the top spot from friend Jin Young Ko, the fellow South Korean player who poured water over Park’s head on the 18th green.

Park closed with a 5-under 66 to finish at 18-under 195. She tapped in a putt not much more than a foot on the 18th to beat Danielle Kang, Hyo Joo Kim, and Inbee Park by a stroke.

Kang, Kim, and Inbee Park each shot 65, with Kang playing the final five holes in 5 under.

Park birdied all four par-5 holes in the final round. She played the 18th in 4 under for the three rounds, making an eagle on Friday and a birdie Saturday for a share the second-round lead.

Park won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore in early March and was second last week in Minnesota in the major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Champions — Steve Stricker made his US Senior Open debut one for the record book by closing with a 1-under 69 to set the 72-hole record and win by six shots.


Stricker finished at 19-under 261 in South Bend, Ind.

The 52-year-old Stricker won a PGA Tour Champions major for the second time this year. He won the Regions Tradition in May.

Jerry Kelly (69) and defending champion David Toms (68) tied for second.

The victory gets Stricker into the U.S. Open next year at Winged Foot, where he tied for sixth in the 2006 US Open, a key moment in resurrecting his career.

European — Christiaan Bezuidenhout won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters for his first title in Sotogrande, Spain.

Bezuidenhout shot an even-par 71 to finish at 10 under for the tournament, six strokes ahead of Jon Rahm and four other players.

‘‘I'm proud of myself hanging in there today,’’ Bezuidenhout said. ‘‘I was nervous. It’s a tough golf course, anything can happen, especially those last three holes playing into the wind. I'm really pleased with the way I played, and to finish it off is unbelievable.’’

The other runner-ups included Mike Lorenzo-Vera of France and Spaniards Alvaro Quiros, Adri Arnaus, and Eduardo de La Riva. Quiros had the best round of the day with a 5-under 66.

Tournament host Sergio Garcia ended in seventh place after shooting a 1-under 70.