In the span of one hole, North Augusta High School grad and USC Aiken alum Scott Brown saw his entire schedule for the year change.
Brown, who planned to play a mostly Web.com Tour schedule for 2013, came into Sunday’s final round of the Puerto Rico Open tied for the lead with Fabian Gomez. Both started the round at 18-under in the event held at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Brown rode scores of 68, 63 and 67 in the first three rounds to get to that point. His second round included eight birdies, an eagle and one bogey.
It seemed that effort had left him short of a victory heading to No. 18 on Sunday, though. Brown trailed Gomez by a stroke at the tee box for the 630-yard par-5 hole, and Gomez put his tee shot in the fairway.
A few shots later, though, Gomez slipped and made bogey. That opened the door for Brown, who was standing over a 4-foot putt for birdie.
The unlikely scenario came true as Brown made the putt and won the event.
“The way the hole went down, it didn’t give me any time to think,” Brown said. “I went from needing an eagle to make a playoff to a birdie for the win.”
With the victory, Brown won $630,000 dollars, which was good enough to boost him from No. 159 to No. 29 on the PGA Tour money list, but that wasn’t the only big benefit. He also received a two-year exemption to play on the PGA Tour.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Brown said.
The win has been celebrated across Aiken County, and congratulations to Brown were a hot topic on Twitter Sunday evening. Brown said he received more than 200 texts on Sunday.
Brown said the victory gave him the confidence that he could do something with that opportunity.
“It’s a relief more than anything, knowing you can win out here,” Brown said. “My goals have definitely changed. I’ve got job security for the next 2½ years. That’s a huge deal.”
The win also came with exemptions into The Players Championship in May and Brown’s first major, August’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.
All that comes after he starts his next stint on the big tour today at the Tampa Bay Championship. Brown described the past few days as a whirlwind, saying he hasn’t had time to stop and reflect since he’s flown back to the area to get his wife and baby to bring them with him to Flordia.
One thing this victory didn’t come with was an invite to the 2013 Masters as it was played the same week as the WGC Cadillac Championship. Augusta National doesn’t give invitations to winners of tour events held the same week as a major or World Golf Championship.
Brown said he wasn’t disappointed with that and said it was more important that he secured his PGA spot.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Brown said. “If I play well, that gets me in what I want to get in. It’s a freedom thing for me. Job security is a big deal.”
Brown has had other opportunities to attend the Masters and even play the course.
He stayed with his grandfather, whose house was about a half-mile away from one of the main gates to the home of the Masters. They had season badges, and Brown for years camped out behind the 16th green. He missed out on the U-turn chip by Tiger Woods that hung on the lip for a second and dropped in 2005.
“That was the first year I didn’t go,” he said. “I was old enough to realize those galleries were so big that I couldn’t see anything.”
That was also the first year Brown was invited to play Augusta National, one week before the 2005 Masters.
Including the Tampa Bay Championship, Brown will have two chances to earn a spot in the Masters field. He’ll also play next week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Brown’s big win came on the same day his longtime friend and fellow pro Kevin Kisner was victorious in the Web.com Tour eevnt in Chile. Two Aiken area players winning professioanl tournaments on the same day didn’t escape Brown’s attention.
“It’s pretty cool, we live close to each other and are always out practicing together at Palmetto (Golf Club),” Brown said, adding that the historic course played a factor in their success. “It says a lot about Palmetto. All that time out there definitely prepared us because it’s a precision course and all the courses at this level are.”