Former Pepperdine All-American Jason Gore Captures First PGA Tour Win
Sept. 18, 2005
Farmington, Pa. (AP) - Former Pepperdine All-American Jason Gore, who became a household name and a fan favorite during last June's U.S. Open, capped a remarkable summer on Sunday when he registered a one-shot victory at the 84 Lumber Classic at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in Farmington, Pennsylvania, for his first career PGA Tour victory.
Gore, who helped Pepperdine capture the 1997 national championship, becomes the first former Waves player to win an event on the PGA Tour.
Gore's four-stroke lead with five holes to play was down to one over runner-up Carlos Franco by No. 18, but Gore landed his approach shot on the 468-yard par-4 on the lower fringe of the green. With a playoff looming if he didn't get up and down, Gore deftly lagged his putt from 91½ feet to within 22 inches and tapped in for a final-round 2-under 70 and the Tour victory he once thought might never come.
"I hit the best putt of my life," he said. "What made it easier is the putt was so hard -- I had to go up and down two elephants and over the windmill. It worked out, luckily."
His 14-under 274 was three shots better than third-place finisher Ben Crane (67).
"It's pretty incredible," said Gore, who played with a sponsor's exemption. "Around May-ish I was wondering if I could get formula for my child, if I was going to make a house payment, and now look. They just handed me a check for $792,000. It's amazing where a little perseverance and grit and maybe a little ignorance can take you."
Gore never finished higher than 18th during two previous stays on the PGA Tour, in 2001 and 2003, and had won only $40,399 on that tour this year. Now, he joins Paul Stankowski (1996) as the only winners on the developmental Nationwide and PGA tours in the same year.
The portly, big-swinging Gore is the first to do so after earning the automatic in-season promotion that goes to any three-time Nationwide winner.
Now, all those public course duffers who think they could make the leap to golf's big leagues have a new hero to go with John Daly. Gore, 31, looks as much like a spectator as he does a pro, and his caddy wears not a Nike or a Titleist cap, but one plugging Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
Jason Gore, this one's on you. And this wasn't an ordinary post-majors an ordinary post-majors win, either, with most of the big names long since gone. The field for the $4.4 million event was unusually strong with four of the top six money winners, including Phil Mickelson and 2004 champion Vijay Singh.
Gore opened a two-shot lead with a 5-under 67 Saturday at the 7,416-yard Mystic Rock course, then never trailed on a Sunday that was a polar opposite of the U.S. Open, when he had a 14-over 84 while playing in the final group.
Franco, playing one group ahead of him Sunday, tied him briefly with a birdie on the par-5 No. 8, but Gore answered minutes later with his eagle on the same hole after a sand wedge from the fairway to 12 feet.
"He wasn't nervous because he's won three times on the Nationwide Tour," said Franco, who had a final-round 69.
Yes, he was. Gore said the pressure was much worse than at the U.S. Open.
"It was pretty brutal," he said. "It was a lot more than I expected. ... I never really played well in a PGA Tour event. Before, I never really had anything to lose and now I had something to prove."
That Gore seemed at home at a tournament where big hitters own an advantage and Daly is the unofficial host is no coincidence.
Gore's mother, Kathy, grew up in Pittsburgh and moved back there four years ago after Jason's father died. Gore first played the game during a summertime shagging balls and driving golf carts at the public Manor Valley course, a suburban Pittsburgh course where his late uncle, John Kovach, was the pro.
And Gore began getting his game together not far from Pittsburgh following his final-round 14-over 84 at the U.S. Open. A month later, he won the Nationwide Tour event in nearby Bridgeport, W.Va., the first of three consecutive wins.
In that forgettable U.S. Open round, he bogeyed more than half the holes, with three double bogeys and a triple. On this much different Sunday, he didn't have a bogey until the par-4 No. 14, when the four-stroke edge was cut to three shots. Franco, who had only two bogeys in four rounds, got to within a stroke with a birdie on No. 16, and Gore bogeyed the par-3 17th by missing an 8-footer for par, setting up the decisive 18th hole.