RALEIGH Chesson Hadley called it the perfect finish to a perfect week, and there was no arguing that Sunday.
All Hadley did was fire a 7-under-par 64 in the final round of the Rex Hospital Open, with a tap-in birdie at the 18th hole. The Raleigh native did it in his hometown, urged on by “Chesson’s Cavalry,” as those in his large gallery called themselves.
Five shots behind when the day began, Hadley finished two shots in front of Danny Lee in the Web.com Tour event at TPC Wakefield Plantation. The payoff was $112,500, lifting Hadley to third on the tour money list and all but assuring the rookie of finishing in the top 25 by year’s end and earning playing rights on the PGA Tour in 2014.
“I can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” Hadley said. “To win in your hometown, in front of your friends and family and all the people who came out this week, it’s a dream come true. It’s incredible.”
Hadley, 25, birdied four of the final six holes to close with a 19-under 265 total. Lee, after a 63 Saturday, took a four-shot lead into the final round but shot a 71 for a 267 finish.
Edward Loar, a week after playing in the U.S. Open, was third at 268 after a 68.
Hadley began his Sunday by attending church with his wife, Amanda, who is five months pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“We snuck out at the end so we could get here for his tee time,” Amanda Hadley said. “He was relaxed when he came out here. He has been totally at ease, in the zone.”
An eagle on the ninth
The golfers had to wait out a weather delay of more than two hours during the round. But Hadley’s momentum couldn’t be stopped after an eagle at the par-5 ninth hole.
Hadley put his second shot on the green 30 feet from the pin, then saw playing partner Josh Broadaway hole out a wedge for an eagle-3. Hadley called it the “kick-in-the-pants” he needed.
“It didn’t make me mad, but I thought, ‘Dadgummit, I want to eagle the hole,’ ” Hadley said.
He did, his putt falling into the cup on the last turn of the ball, causing Hadley to pump his fists and flap his arms. After that, he said, his mindset was to make as many birdies as possible and see what happened.
“I played borderline flawless golf coming in,” he said.
Hadley was playing two groups in front of Lee. While Lee said he didn’t look at the leaderboards, he couldn’t drown out the cheers on the course ahead of him.
“I was hearing a lot of loud noises,” he said.
Lee bogeyed the par-5 15th hole after pushing his tee shot and taking an unplayable lie. That dropped him into a tie with Hadley at 18 under, and Hadley then moved to 19 under with his birdie at the 18th, his wedge shot nicking the flagstick.
“I was so thankful that putt was a foot,” he said.
A weak drive at the 18th left Lee 190 yards from the pin, and he pushed his 6-iron approach right of the green. Needing a chip-in to tie, he went 6 feet past the hole and bogeyed.
“I’m happy with where I finished. Chesson just played awesome,” said Lee, a South Korea native who won the 2008 U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst and was seeking his second career Web.com Tour victory.
Hadley, a lanky 6 feet 4 inches, was an All-America at Georgia Tech and the 2010 ACC medalist. He spent the past two years on the eGolf Tour, playing for small purses and working on his game, then qualified for the Web.com Tour this year.
Hadley was second in the Mid-Atlantic Championship in early June. Now, he’s a winner, opening the Rex with a 63 and closing with a 64 to push his earnings to $249,784 for the year.
“This was God putting this all together for me,” he said.
Hadley was born at Rex Hospital. His child, he said, will be born at Rex. It all fit perfectly together Sunday.
“I’m so proud of him,” Amanda Hadley said.
So was the cavalry.
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