Brett Wetterich fired a 2-under-par 69 Sunday to win the Chitimacha Louisiana Open for the second time in his Nationwide Tour career. Wetterich, who won here in 2003, finished at 13-under 271, one stroke better than University of Florida senior Andres Echavarria (67) and two in front of former Florida Gator and 2009 champion Bubba Dickerson (69).
John Kimbell posted the round of the week with a 10-under 61 and settled in the clubhouse at 10-under 274 more than 3 1/2 hours in front of the final group. Kimbell eventually settled for a fourth-place tie with Rich Barcelo (70) and Carl Paulson (67), who registered his first top-10 finish of any kind since 2002.
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Wetterich recovered from consecutive bogeys midway through the final nine holes at Le Triomphe Country Club and regained the lead with a tap-in birdie putt at the 15thhole. He steadied himself down the stretch with three consecutive pars to become the first two-time winner in the tournament’s 20-year history. He also becomes the ninth player in Tour history to win the same event twice.
“I love this place. This course just fits me perfectly,” he said. “This is a great feeling. I can’t be any happier. I held in there the last two days but it certainly wasn’t easy.”
Wetterich, one of the bigger hitters on Tour, did most of his damage on the four par 5s this week.
“The key to this golf course is playing those holes well,” he said after chalking up 14 birdies and a pair of pars. “I played them really well. You can miss a couple fairways and get away with it sometimes. I hit a lot of good, long drives out there.”
Wetterich led by three after 36 holes and started the final round with a two-stroke advantage over a host of challengers. The 2006 EDS Byron Nelson Championship winner was 3 under for the day after a birdie at No. 12 and led by three, but consecutive bogeys and a birdie by Echavarria, two groups in front, knotted things at 12 under.
“I hit the clubs I wanted to on those holes, I just wound up in some bad spots,” said the winner. “I had no idea where he was on the board.”
Wetterich, a USA Ryder Cup team member in 2006, handled the pressure with ease. He stuffed a sand wedge to within a foot at the 445-yard, 15th and regained the lead.
“I used to be terrible at getting rid of the bad shots,” he said. “I’m getting better at it.”
Echavarria, the Gators’ 23-year-old captain, opened with an eagle on the first hole and was able to put consistent pressure on the leader during the windy final round. He missed birdie putts of 10 and 12 feet on his final two holes and then had to wait and see if Wetterich would falter.
“It was fun to have a chance to win a Nationwide Tour event, especially with a player (Wetterich) that I grew up watching,” said Echavarria, who got permission from his coach to skip the team event and play on his own. “It’s amazing. I had a pretty good shot and missed a couple of short putts but it’s golf, it happens. I’m really pleased with my result.”
Everybody seemed pleased for various reasons.
-- Wetterich returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in several years and collected $90,000 in the process
-- Echavarria proved himself on a much larger stage as he prepares for the upcoming Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championships
-- Dickerson birdied the final two holes to finish solo third and collect Echavarria’s second-place money, which should help in the season-long money race
-- Kimbell, a Monday qualifier, posted a career-low round and may have gained some much-needed, early season momentum
-- Paulson, who missed the better part of five years on Tour with back problems, not only made his first cut since 2005 but also collected his first top-10 finish since a tie for fifth at the 2002 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic.
The Nationwide Tour will move to northern California in two weeks for the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward April 11-17.