Brunswick, Ga. – Over the first six events of the season, the NGA TOUR crowned six first-time winners. However, Jon Curran ended that streak on Sunday afternoon in the Brunswick-Heritage Oaks Classic by becoming the first two-time winner of the season on the top-rated developmental tour. And he did it in style.
Curran of Hopkinston, Mass., matched the course record with a 9-under 63 in the final round of the $150,000 event and cruised to a four-stroke win over Ryan Gildersleeve, finishing with a 21-under 267 total.
“I’ve been playing well all year, but it kind of clicked for me this week,” said Curran, who won $22,000. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens and made my share of putts. It was a really good week all around.”
Curran started the final round trailing leader Gildersleeve by a single stroke, but the Vanderbilt alumnus wasted little time putting his name atop the leaderboard, tying for the lead with a birdie on the par-4 fifth hole.
“It’s important when you’re in contention to get off to a good start,” said Curran, who also won the season-opening Members Only Shootout this season. “If you can make a couple of early birdies, it settles the nerves a little bit.”
After making birdie on No. 5, his second of the day, Curran was merely getting started. The former Commodore birdied his final four holes on the outward nine en route to a 6-under 30, but Gildersleeve birdied his final three holes on the front to keep the event close.
“Ryan played well,” said Curran, “and he wasn’t letting me off the hook.”
Curran stayed two strokes ahead of Gildersleeve until carding back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to double his lead. Gildersleeve birdied 16th hole to pull within three, but a bogey on No. 17 gave Curran all the breathing room he needed.
But rather than limp across the finish, Curran birdied the final hole of regulation to match the course record. Over the entirety of the 72-hole event, Curran posted rounds of 66-70-68-63 and made just two bogeys.
With the victory, Curran, who finished T24 in the PGA TOUR’s Puerto Rico Open earlier this season, moves atop money standings and in good position to claim an event exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open, which will be awarded to the leading money winner on the NGA TOUR at the season’s midpoint.
“These guys out here are good, so nothing is ever safe,” Curran said of possibly earning another PGA TOUR start. “There’s a lot of great players right there in the money standings, so I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Despite coming up short of his first Pro Series victory, Gildersleeve’s runner-up finish was his career-best effort. Gildersleeve, a former South Alabama All-American from Clearwater, Fla., recorded rounds of 68-66-69-68 to finish with a 17-under 271 total and earn $11,378.
Peter Malnati, a former University of Missouri standout from Dandridge, Tenn., also recorded a career-best finish in the Brunswick-Heritage Oaks Classic. Malnati carded a 7-under 65 in the final round to move into solo third at 16-under par.
Seth Fair of Brownsburg, Ind., shot a final-round 69 to finish fourth at 13-under par, Marc-Etienne Bussieres of Orlando, Fla., posted a 4-under 68 to finish fifth at 12-under par and French-born golfer Cedric Scotto fired a 72 on Sunday to finish sixth at 11-under par.
Heralded rookie Trent Whitekiller of Sallisaw, Okla., continued his impressive season, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish in a tie for seventh at 10-under par. Jonathan Randolph (68) and Shawn Jasper (71) also finished T7 at 10-under par.
Although he missed the cut this week, Riley Wheeldon will earn an event exemption into the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, which will be played May 16-19 at Thornblade Club, Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer course and The Reserve at Lake Keowee.
Wheeldon, a University of Louisville alumnus from British Columbia, Canada, earned $32,782 during the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic, NeSmith Chevrolet Classic, Milton Martin Honda Classic and Brunswick-Heritage Oaks Classic to claim the exemption.
The NGA TOUR Pro Series will return to action with the playing of the Mountain Lakes Classic, presented by Mountain Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau, at Cross Creek Plantation in Seneca, S.C., on April 25.