Andres Gonzales didn’t need any extra holes at the Soboba Golf Classic this time around. The 28-year-old from Washington, a playoff runner-up here last fall, fired an even-par 71 Sunday to complete a wire-to-wire win, his first on the Nationwide Tour.
“I’m overjoyed right now,” said Gonzales, who became the first start-to-finish winner on Tour since 2008. “Last year was tough, coming in here and losing a playoff. I’m happy I got a little bit of revenge this year.”
Gonzales finished at 8-under 276, two strokes in front of Andrew Svoboda, who temporarily grabbed a share of the lead Sunday when he eagled the par-5 sixth hole. Svoboda surrendered the lead back with bogeys and Nos. 10, 11 and 13, leaving Gonzales with a four-shot bulge midway through the back nine.
“I stuck with the same thing I was doing all week and that meant controlling what I could control,” said Gonzales, who led by two shots entering the final day. “It also meant not looking at leaderboards until it came down to crunch time.”
Alistair Presnell birdied the final two holes for a 3-under 68 that lifted him into a tie for third with Michael Letzig (70) at 5-under 279. Justin Hicks, who ran off a string of five consecutive birdies on the front nine, was fifth, four shots off the pace.
Gonzales’ steady Easter diet of fairways (he hit 10 of 14) and greens (he hit 14) in regulation was all he needed to pick up the winner’s check for $135,000. The victory, coupled with a runner-up effort at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship to open the year, pushes him to No. 1 on the money list.
“I was nervous today because I knew if I won this one I’d have a pretty good chance of getting back on the PGA Tour,” he said. Gonzales was a rookie on Tour in 2011 but made only nine cuts in 21 starts and wound up No. 192 on the money list.
Gonzales kept the field at arm’s length for most of the day thanks to birdies at Nos. 5 and 8 that pushed him into double-digits under par. Svoboda’s eagle put him at 9 under until his stumble after making the turn.
Gonzales, dealing with some jitters, bogeyed 15 and 16 and saw hit four-shot lead cut in half.
“After those two holes, I thought I would be pretty close to being tied,” he said. “The first time I knew where I stood for the day was when we got to 17 tee.”
The former UNLV Rebel made a solid par save to maintain his advantage and stepped to the tee at the reachable, par-5 18th. A big drive in the fairway left him little to do but avoid the water that guards the front-left side of the green.
“I really wanted to hit wedge on the last hole but my caddie had me hit 9-iron over the green,” he said.
Gonzales’ ball wound up on the back fringe, some 75 feet from the pin. His first putt stopped five feet from the cup and then he missed again -- by inches -- and settled for a 5.
“I really wanted that last putt so I could shoot all four rounds under par,” he said. “But when you have four strokes to play with, I didn’t mind tapping in for par. It’s nice not to have to think about anything, I’ll tell you that much.”
--Andres Gonzales becomes the first wire-to-wire winner on the Nationwide Tour since Colt Knost at the 2008 Price Cutter Charity Championship. There have been only four such winners on Tour in the past 10 years. Gonzales’ win ended the longest stretch in NWT history without a wire-to-wire winner (this is the 101st tournament since Knost won). The other wire-to-wire winners besides Gonzales and Knost are Chris Nallen at the 2004 Gila River Golf Classic, Kevin Na at the 2006 Mark Christopher Charity Classic and Martin Laird at the 2007 at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic.
--In the first five tournaments this year, the 54-hole leader has gone on to win all five times.
--Andres Gonzales becomes the fourth first-time winner (in five events) on Tour this year. The others are Edward Loar at the Panama Claro Championship, Paul Haley II at the Chile Classic and Casey Wittenberg at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
--Andres Gonzales picked up a check for $135,000 this week, more than he had made in his previous 24 career starts on Tour ($132,748).
--With his runner-up finish this week, Andrew Svoboda moves from No. 6 to No. 2 on the money list. Svoboda was also a runner-up (with Gonzales) at the season-opening Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.
--Alistair Presnell’s tie for third moved him from No. 70 to No. 13 on the money list. Michael Letzig’s tie for third moved him from No. 150 to No. 16 on the money list. Camilo Benedetti (tied for fifth) jumped nine spots to No. 9 on the money list.
--Justin Hicks had five birdies in a row starting at No. 4 Sunday. The best birdie streak on Tour this year is six straight by Kevin Johnson at the Panama Claro Championship. The tournament record for most consecutive birdies is eight by Roberto Castro in the second round (Nos. 17-6) in 2010.
--Reid Edstrom had back-to-back eagles on the front nine. Edstrom chipped in from 40 feet at the 570-yard fifth hole and then rolled in a 15-foot putt at the 536-yard sixth hole. He is the second player in tournament history to have consecutive eagles -- David Branshaw eagled the same two holes in the second round in 2010. Edstrom is the first player to register back-to-back eagles on Tour this year. He fired a 2-under 69 and finished tied for 12th.
--Veteran Paul Claxton (69) tied for 12th this week, his fourth top-15 finish in five starts this year. Claxton, who joined the Tour in 1995, has made the cut in all five starts in 2012 -- the first time in his career that he has started the year with five consecutive cuts. Claxton remains No. 5 on the money list.
--The Nationwide Tour will move to northern California next week for the TPC Stonebrae Championship at the TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Callif.