CLYMER – Mother Nature saved the best for last during the Web.com Tour’s return to Peek’n Peak.
The weather could not have been more perfect for the final round of the LECOM Health Challenge, and the play matched the conditions. The tournament went to a four-man playoff for just the 14th time in history, and first time since 2013.
Not a bad way for professional golf to return to Western New York for the first time since 2007.
“I thought the course played really good all week,” Pittsford’s Dominic Bozzelli said. “I enjoyed it. It was fun. There's some risk-reward out there. You get a little bit of everything. I definitely enjoyed it and I think a lot of other guys did, too.”
On top: Unheralded Rick Lamb, a 25-year-old currently residing in St. Simons Island, Ga., shot a course-record 9-under 63 to get into the playoff, then won with a chip-in birdie on the second extra hole. Lamb became the fourth Web.com Tour rookie to win this season, and just the 22nd Monday qualifier to go on and win in Tour history. The former college star at the University of Tennessee finished tied for second at the NCAA Championships in 2013, earning All-American honorable mention that same year.
Making the most of it: Of the 12 players who Monday qualified, not only did Lamb win, but two others finished in the top 14 – an unusually high number. Ryan Sullivan finished in a tie for seventh at 14-under, while Billy Kennerly finished tied for 14th at 12-under.
Nice consolation prize: Cheng Tsung Pan was one of those four playoff participants. Although he didn’t win, Pan did earn $44,800 for his tie for second place to move to No. 17 on the Web.com money list, inside the top 25 who will earn a PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season. Even better, he likely solidified a spot in the upcoming Olympics, representing Chinese Taipei. “I knew I needed to play well, get some World Ranking points here and I’ll for sure get in,” the native of Taiwan said.
Hometown hero: Bozzelli finished tied for second after making a clutch birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to get into the playoff. He made another clutch par putt on the first playoff hole, but a wayward drive on the second playoff hole doomed him.
“It was an awesome week,” Bozzelli said. “I gave it my all. Those guys just played really well. Hats off to Rick. That was a pretty awesome chip at the end.”
Bozzelli moved to No. 4 on the money list and will be on the PGA Tour for the 2016-17 season.
“It's great. I mean, I'm kind of just keeping my head down on that, trying not to look at it a whole lot and see where you are at the end of the year, but it's a good week and I'm definitely moving in the right direction,” he said.
Decision to make: The final playoff participant was 30-year-old Rhein Gibson. A PGA Tour member for the 2015-16 season, Gibson was in the field because of the cancellation of the PGA’s event in West Virginia because of flooding. By finishing in a tie for second, he moves to 67th on the Web.com Tour money list, presenting an interesting dilemma. If he goes back to the PGA Tour and falls outside the top 75 on the Web.com money list, he would give up a spot in the Web.com finals. He could still get that spot by finishing in the top 200 of the FedEx Cup points race, but is currently ranked 206th on that list– on the outside looking in.
Welcome back: John Merrick won in 2006 during the Web.com Tour’s last stop at Peek’n Peak. In his return, he finished tied for 37th after a round of even-par 72 Sunday left him at 8-under 280.
Nice touch: World War II veterans were on hand and tended the 18th hole flagstick during the final round. As each group completed play, they shook hands with those veterans, all of whom are in their 90s.
Strong finish: Denny McCarthy, the 2015 Porter Cup winner, closed with a round of 4-under 68 to get into a tie for ninth. McCarthy has had a strong season on the Web.com Tour, making the cut in 10 of 12 events. He has two top-10 finishes, and ranks 48th on the money list.
Next up: The Web.com Tour heads south to Springfield, Ill., for the inaugural Lincoln Land Charity Championship at Panther Creek Country Club from Thursday through Sunday. Next year’s LECOM Health Challenge will return to Peek’n Peak in the beginning of July.