Sullivan Notches First Win on eGolf Professional Tour

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Greensboro, N.C. – Ryan Sullivan of Winston-Salem, N.C. opted to look away from leaderboards during the final round of the eGolf Gateway Tour’s third annual Sedgefield Classic on Friday – until he arrived on the tee of the par-5 15th.

At that point, the tournament’s overnight leader found out he was tied for the lead with four holes to go alongside one of the tour’s best players in Ryan Nelson of Charleston, S.C.

The “ignorance-is-bliss” theory worked out just fine for Sullivan, who made a clutch birdie on the par-3 16th to grab the outright lead, in turn moving to 4-under par for the week as Nelson was faltering down the stretch.

The late birdie turned out to be just enough for Sullivan, who notched his first career tour win with rounds of 69-68-69—206 (4-under) to earn the event’s $14,000 first-place prize.

Sullivan’s week on the demanding Sedgefield Country Club – Dye Course venue began in stellar fashion with a 3-under 137 total through 36 holes of strong and sturdy spring winds.

The former UNC Wilmington standout and current Web.com Tour member entered Friday’s third and final round one shot clear of playing partners Cam Burke of Ontario, Canada and Matt Thompson of Marshall, Mich., who sat together in a tie for second at 2-under 138.

Ryan Sullivan with family

Ryan Sullivan with family

The early story on day three, however, was Nelson, who birdied Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 to jump out to a torrid 5-under-par start through six holes, vaulting into a tie for the lead alongside Sullivan at 4-under par after the overnight leader birdied the par-5 fourth.

On the tight par-4 sixth, Sullivan blocked his tee shot into the trees right, and had to hit a provisional after the ball was not found in thick brush and leaves.

His second tee shot hit the cart path and bounded down by a creek, leading to a punch-shot for his fourth that settled into a greenside gully. Fortunately, with a putter in hand, he played a Texas wedge up onto the green which hit the flagstick, with his ball coming to rest a few inches away for a tap-in double-bogey.

“That tee shot doesn’t suit my eye. I like to hit a draw and it calls for a cut. I hit it into the leaves and never found it, so I was floored to get out of there with a double,” said Sullivan. “It was damage control at that point.”

The optimistic outlook on the double paid dividends for Sullivan, who immediately birdied Nos. 7 and 8 to make up for the lost shots, moving back to 4-under par for the tournament and tied for the lead alongside Nelson.

“Making those birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 were really big for me. I knew if I kept it around even par out there today, I would be okay,” Sullivan said.

While Nelson was making par after par on the arduous Pete Dye layout, Sullivan stumbled again, this time bogeying the 460-yard par-4 10th to fall one shot back of the tour’s 2014 money leader.

The two players, playing a threesome apart, pared Nos. 11 through 14 before Sullivan finally opted to glance at a leaderboard on the par-5 15th to see how things were shaping up with four holes to go.

“I didn’t look at a scoreboard until 15, but that’s when I saw that Ryan was 5-under on the day and 4-under total,” said Sullivan. “That kicked me into gear because I was getting a bit conservative prior to that, just trying to hit greens. I was just trying to keep ahead of the guys I was playing with, but then I knew that I had to make something happen.”

After missing out on a makeable birdie at 15, Sullivan hit a stellar 5-iron tee shot on the par-3 16th to set up a well-timed birdie to jump back to 1-under on the day and 4-under for the week.

Nelson, playing in the day’s penultimate threesome, missed a 4-foot par putt on the par-4 17th to fall one shot back of Sullivan – who witnessed his final-round foe’s short miss in the group ahead.

“I saw where Ryan missed that putt on 17, so I figured I would be one shot up with two to go,” Sullivan said.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson

A solid two-putt par on 17 kept Sullivan at 4-under, suddenly in total control of the tournament after Nelson collapsed on the par-4 18th with a closing three-putt double-bogey that left him at 1-under 209 and out of the mix.

Needing just a double-bogey to hold off Nelson, and a bogey to hold off a late-charging Burke, Sullivan stuck a 7-iron to 40 feet at the last, and two-putted for a final-round 69 and his first career eGolf Gateway Tour title.

“Right after you win, you feel like the tournament’s not over,” said Sullivan, who won $14,000. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, you don’t walk away with the winning check. I’m sure it will kick in soon, though.”

The win marked further ascension up golf’s ladder for Sullivan, who turned professional in 2012, competing on the eGolf Gateway Tour in between stints on the Web.com Tour over the last two years.

The 25-year-old held 54-hole leads at the tour’s 2013 Championship at St. James and the 2014 Columbia Open, but closed in 74 both times to sit on the outside of the trophy ceremony.

“This is big for me. Big for my year going forward,” he said.

On the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit, Sullivan has made two of four cuts this year, posting a season-best T30 at last month’s Chile Classic.

With solid-yet-conditional status, Sullivan has been forced to wait week in and week out to see if his number will come up on the Web.com Tour. That nomadic lifestyle can lead many players astray, but Sullivan feels right at home looking for tournaments to compete in.

“I don’t like to sit still during a week off, I want to compete,” he said. “Hopefully this win will kick start my year and get me ready for my next Web event, whenever that may be.”

Cam Burke

Cam Burke

Burke, a former eGolf Gateway Tour winner, birdied Nos. 15 and 17 late on Friday to move to 2-under par, but pared the 18th to close with an even-par 70 and a 2-under total for the week. The two-time Canadian Amateur champion earned $8,000 for a solo-second-place finish.

The 26-year-old former Eastern Michigan golfer won the tour’s Founders Club Classic in 2013 – one of 12 top-10s posted during his first three years on the eGolf Gateway Tour.

Burke spent all of 2014 on the Web.com Tour before returning to the eGolf Gateway Tour this year, where the Sedgefield Classic marked his first made cut of the season. The runner-up effort was the third of his tour career, dating back to the 2012 season.

Nelson wound up in solo-third place at 1-under 209 following his late-round stumble. He earned $6,500 for the week.

The married father of two now has back-to-back third-place finishes on tour, dating back to a T3 two weeks ago at the Championship at St. James Plantation.

A six-time winner on tour, Nelson won the tour’s money title in 2014 with $112,851 in earnings, thanks in part to a season-ending win at the $300,000 Tour Championship. The breakout season marked the eighth time in tour history that a player eclipsed six figures in single-season earnings.

Rick Lamb of South Bend, Ind. finished in solo-fourth place at even-par 216 after rounds of 74-68-68. The former University of Tennessee standout earned $5,000 for the week.

Lamb, who finished T2 in the NCAA Championships in 2013, joined Sullivan and Chris Kamin of Phoenix, Ariz. as the only players in the field to card back-to-back rounds in the 60s on Thursday and Friday.

• The eGolf Tour would like to thank McConnell Golf, in particular John McConnell, Brian Kittler and Rocky Brooks, for their help in coordinating this event. A special thanks goes to Sedgefield Country Club – Dye Course head golf professional Chris Terry and his staff for helping the tour conduct a successful third annual Sedgefield Classic. Thank you to Sedgefield Country Club – Dye Course superintendent Daniel Knight and his crew for their work on the course coming out of a difficult winter in the greater Greensboro area. Last but not least, thank you to the members of Sedgefield for allowing the tour access to the club’s facilities for the week, and for their efforts in volunteering.