GREENVILLE, S.C. -- David Mathis turned out to be a prophet. The 34-year-old North Carolinian told his wife at the start of the week that he thought he was going to win the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Mathis was true to his word Sunday, capping off a nearly wire-to-wire run with a final-round 68 for a three-stroke margin and his first career title.
|Inside the Numbers|
|Mathis' Final Stats|
"I just felt like I was going to win," he said of thise early-week thoughts. "I've gone into weeks where I was playing well enough to win, but this week felt different. I thought if I made the shots I needed to make and hole some putts that I'd be in this spot."
Mathis posted back-to-back 65s and jumped to the second-round lead in the tournament that pairs Nationwide Tour pros with celebrities and amateurs in a better-ball format over three courses in the Greenville area. Mathis maintained the lead after three days and then held off a host of challengers in the final round at the Thornblade Club to finish with a 20-under-par 266 total, three better than Roger Tambellini (65) and four in front of Matt Weibring (71).
Mathis' first career win was worth $121,500 from the $675,000 purse and jumped him from No. 44 to No. 4 on the money list. The top 25 at the end of the year will earn their PGA TOUR cards for 2009. He also collected the keys to a BMW X5 automobile.
"It's everything I imagined," said Mathis of his first win. "I never thought it wouldn't happen. I thought my game was progressing and I could see improvement in my game. That helped me a great deal with my confidence."
Mathis started the final round at 17 under par and one stroke in front of Weibring. Three birdies in his first five holes put him at 20 under and forced the field to chase the leader on a difficult golf course with the wind blowing and thunderstorms looming.
"I wanted to keep the pedal down," said Mathis. "On this Tour, guys can run off five birdies in a row very quickly. I knew I had to continue to try and make birdies, especially with two par 5s in the last four holes, anything can happen."
Not much happened the rest of the way and not many seriously challenged Mathis, who remained steady and basically shut the door by birdyieing the two par 5s, Nos. 15 and 16. By then, Tambellini was in the house at 17 under and nobody else was close.
"As the round went on, I was able to play a little safer and avoid some places that could lead to some bigger number," said Mathis, who hit 9 of 13 fairways and 11 of 18 greens. "I played the first 12 holes exactly the way I would have played them had this been Thursday.
"I tried to keep the ball under the wind and hit to some safer spots," he added. "Maybe we took a little more conservative line on the pins but that was it. I just wanted to stay out of trouble and make any big numbers."
By the time he stepped to the 18th tee, his lead was four and the win virtually certain.
"As I got to the tee, I thought, 'this is the situation I've wanted to be in my entire life,'" said Mathis. "One hole left to play, four-stroke lead with a great hole left to play on a great golf course. The game plan goes out the window at that point."
Mathis's second shot came up short in a bunker and he blasted to 12 feet and two-putted for the win.
In the other part of the tournament, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and pro partner Chris Nallen capped off a dominating week in the team competition. The pair shot scores of 59-59-60-62 and finished at 46 under par, two shots better than the runner-up team of musician Javier Colon and Colt Knost, winner of last week's Fort Smith Classic. Gretzky and Nallen shared the first-round lead and held the outright lead after each subsequent round.
"I had a blast. I played with the best hockey player ever," said Nallen, a devoted New York Rangers fan who finished tied for 18th this week. "I left a few shots out there but overall I'm very pleased with the way we played."
Gretzky, as the low celebrity in the field, collects a brand new BMW Z4 and will have $10,000 donated to the charity of his choice. He remains one win behind his wife, Janet Jones-Gretzky, who has twice been the low celebrity over the past four years.
"No, no bragging rights," said Gretzky. "We weren't playing to win, we were just playing to have fun. This is a great tournament and we're looking forward to next year."
Gretzky will serve as host of the Nationwide Tour's inaugural Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic presented by Samsung in Clarksburg, Ontario (north of Toronto) at the end of June.
Fourth-Round Notes: Sunday's scoring average at Thornblade Club was 71.333. ... Ricky Barnes shot a 66 Sunday and jumped up from a tie for 37th to a tie for 10th. Barnes finished tied for fifth at last week's Fort Smith Classic. This marks the first time in his professional career that he has had back-to-back top-10 finishes. This is Barnes' 87th career start on the Nationwide Tour. It is also his fourth top-25 finish of the year (nine starts). Barnes had four top-25 finishes in 2006, but the fourth one did not come until the Nationwide Tour Championship, his 26th start that year. Barnes is now No. 25 on the money list. ... Rob Bradley shot a final-round 68 and finished tied for 14th. Bradley was 0-3 in cuts made this year and has not played on Tour since 2004. His last top-25 finish was a tie for ninth at the 2004 Samsung Canadian PGA Championship. ... Casey Wittenberg continues a solid rookie season. Wittenberg finished tied for 14th this week, his seventh top-25 finish of the year. Wittenberg has made the cut in 10 of his 11 starts and has now moved up to No. 18 on the money list...Kim Felton carded a final-day 68 and moved up to a tie for eighth, his best effort since a tie for sixth at the 2006 Peek 'n Peak Classic.