Rookie Jamie Lovemark fired 4-under par 68 Sunday at El Bosque Country Club to emerge from a packed leaderboard and finish regulation play at the Bicentary Mexico Open Bicentenary tied with third-round co-leader B.J. Staten at 12-under 276. Lovemark and Staten went back to the 18th hole, where Lovemark would only need three strokes to seal the deal and capture the $108,000 first-place check.
Both players found the fairway off the tee, but Lovemark hit his second shot on the 567-yard, par-5 finishing hole and had three feet left for eagle. Once Staten’s second shot came up short in the hazard, he scrambled for par. Lovemark only needed two putts to close him out but he rolled his first one in anyway to claim his first win on the Nationwide Tour.
“It was definitely the best shot I’ve hot in a really long time,” he said. “My caddie and I figured the ball would go 12 percent farther due to elevation and another eight percent because of adrenaline. I hit a perfect 6-iron from 235 yards. I think it was half luck, half skill.”
Lovemark jumped from No. 10 to No. 2 on the money list with $246,351, which should be more than enough to guarantee him his 2011 PGA Tour card by finishing among the 25 leading money winners at the end of the season.
“I haven’t won since 2007 so I can’t tell you how special it is for me to win out here,” said the 22-year-old, who turned professional in 2009. “I’ve knocked on the door a few times this year and to seal the deal feels so good.”
Local residents Efren Serna, Jr. (69) and Jose Rodriguez (68) gave the locals something to cheer about as they lurked at the top of the leaderboard all afternoon. Serna had an eagle and five birdies on Sunday, but two bogeys on the final three holes left him one shot back of the playoff and solo third at 11 under. Rodriguez reached 11 under par by the 10th hole, but a bogey on the par-3 12th hole and six closing pars put him two strokes back in fourth place.
Lovemark started the final round one shot back of co-leaders Staten (69) and Peter Tomasulo (65), but quickly grabbed the lead with a birdie on the first hole and an eagle on the driveable par-4 second hole. When he birdied Nos. 8 and 9 to reach 13 under, it appeared the tournament was his for the taking.
“This is a great course where you can make a lot of birdies but you have to stay patient out here,” said Lovemark. “I knew it was going to be tough out here today, but I had to try really hard to not let any bad thoughts come into my head.”
Lovemark has experienced a plethora of success in his young career. In 2007, he won the 2007 NCAA Individual Championship as a freshman at the University of Southern California, becoming the eighth freshman to ever accomplish the feat. At the Frys.com Open last October on the PGA Tour he posted weekend scores of 65-64 to finish at 18 under par and get into a three-man playoff with Rickie Fowler and Troy Matteson. He appeared to be headed for elimination on the first extra hole when his approach shot landed in the water, but the ball bounced out and into the greenside rough. Lovemark got up and down for par to continue but eventually lost when Matteson birdied the second extra hole.
“On Friday night I started thinking about what might have been,” said Lovemark, who is having Lasik eye surgery next week. “Obviously it would have been nice to win the Frys.com Open but I’m not sure I’d be the player I am today. Losing that playoff motivated me to get better. It was for the best because now I am going to be on the PGA Tour next year with a better swing and more experience. This is the second-best tour in the world and there’s no substitute for playing at this level of competition.”
It’s hard to see why he’s having eye surgery since he saw himself going to the PGA Tour next year all along.
Final-Round Notes: Andrew Svoboda and Kevin Chappell fired 65s, the low rounds of the day. Svoboda tied for 14th place, while Chappell tied for ninth. … Fabian Gomez led the field in birdies this week with 23. … The final-round scoring average for the par-72 layout was 72.757. The cumulative average for all four rounds was 73.139. … The Nationwide Tour is idle next week then heads north the following week for the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic. The tournament will be played at Georgian Bay Club and Raven Golf Club July 8-11.