Ryan Brehm couldn’t have picked a worse time for his only double-bogey of the tournament. Then he found an even better time for one more birdie.
The 33-year-old former Michigan State Spartans player birdied the first playoff hole to defeat New Zealand veteran Tim Wilkinson on Sunday and win the LECOM Health Challenge tournament on the PGA Korn Ferry Tour at Peek’n Peak resort in Chautauqua County.
Brehm blew a two-stroke lead on the final hole of regulation when he shot double-bogey 7. It was only the fourth hole in the LECOM that he played over par in 72 holes.
Attributing the score to simply bad luck, Brehm went right back to No. 18 and sank a 10-foot birdie putt to win for the first time since 2016 on PGA’s developmental tour. More important, he assured himself of a top-25 finish in tour points, which means he will regain his PGA Tour card for 2020.
“I’m ecstatic to be out on the PGA Tour, but my attitude has changed since the last time I was out there,” Brehm said. “I’m at peace with trying to play good golf. The Korn Ferry Tour is fantastic, the caliber of play is excellent, and I love the people that work out here. It’s just a small family. So I’m comfortable here and hopefully I’ll be comfortable on the PGA Tour next year.”
Brehm, is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and one of the longest hitters on the Korn Ferry Tour. On the 575-yard playoff hole, he went for the green on his second shot and landed on the fringe. Wilkinson laid up to 140 yards and each golfer had a 10-foot birdie putt. Wilkinson’s putt lipped out. Brehm’s went around the cup and dropped in.
Wilkinson owned a one-stroke lead at 17-under 199 when the third round of the tournament was completed on Sunday moring. Brehm and Australia’s Jamie Arnold were one stroke back.
Brehm, who had a long drive of 355 yards in the first round, played the back nine at Peek’n Peak’s Upper Course in 14-under until he hit No. 18 on Sunday. He hit his drive into the trees and ended up with what he called “an unlucky lie,” which led to him hitting into a hazard and taking a double.
Wilkinson, 40, meanwhile, parred the hole for his 69 as he played his final 40 holes without a bogey.
Brehm shot rounds of 70, 66, 64 and 68 with 22 birdies and 46 pars.
Chase Seiffert, Blayne Barber and Will Zalatoris tied for third at 19-under 269. Seiffert shot 63 on the final day.
Brehm was an assistant coach at Michigan State, where he starred on three Big 10 championship golf teams before he decided he missed competitive golf and set out on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour.
This week, he was celebrating becoming an uncle for the first time with his sister’s birth of a boy.
“My family has been sending me photos all week,” Brehm said. “We were waiting around on Friday to see when he would be born. I think it’ll be more real when I get to meet him, but I’m excited.”
Ignaczak wins County title
Cary Ignaczak of Derby, who plays out of the Gowanda Country Club, shot a 1-over 71 at Elma Meadows Golf Club to win the Erie County Amateur Championship.
He won by a stroke over Joseph Napoli of Chestnut Meadows Men’s Club.
The tournament was shortened to one 18-hole round after Saturday’s round was canceled because of rain.
Anthony Delisanti (Willowbrook) won the boys division by shooting 1-over 71, edging Mitch Jeffe (East Aurora CC) by one stroke.
Jeff Schauger (River Oaks) shot 73 to win the Men’s Senior Division by three strokes.
Samantha Gaffney (Brookfield) won the women’s division. Emily Isaacson (Chautauqua GC) was two strokes back.
Emily Kase (Tan Tara) won the Girls Junior title with 6-over 79, beating Victoria Leach (NYSGA eClub of WNY) by five strokes.