Maybe he’ll change his nickname from “Two Gloves” to “Two Trophies.”
Tommy Gainey hit it “right of right” during Sunday’s final round of the Chiquita Classic, but at the end of the day he had hit enough straight and made enough birdies to keep his challengers at bay and become the Nationwide Tour’s first two-time winner this year.
“When you win one, you want to prove to everybody that it wasn’t a fluke,” said Gainey, who earned his first title at the Melwood Prince George’s County Open last month. “It’s been a long week and definitely a long day.”
The 34-year-old South Carolinian began the final day with a four-shot lead and needed only a 3-under-par 69 to win for the second time in his last four starts. Gainey finished at 27-under 261, three shots better than Joe Affrunti (65), and five in front of Geoffrey Sisk (66) and former U.S. Amateur Champion Colt Knost (70).
The win was worth $99,000 for Gainey and pushed him to No. 1 on the money list with $306,307. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn PGA Tour cards for 2011 and Gainey has more than enough to guarantee him a return trip to the Tour.
“I know I’ve got doubters. Everyone does,” said Gainey, who made only 6 of 24 cuts during his rookie season on Tour in 2008. “It’s very reassuring that I won the first time and that I was able to back it up. Save for the top 25 (on the PGA Tour) I feel like I can compete with anyone. ”
Gainey’s rollercoaster round at TPC River’s Bend perhaps would have been a better fit had it taken place five miles down the road at the Kings Island Amusement Park. After opening with a bogey at No. 1 to give the field hope, Gainey added four more pars before he started a wild ride that lasted 10 holes.
He strung together six birdies and three bogeys on his next nine holes to give everyone hope for a late-afternoon collapse.
“I hit it awful the whole day,” he said after hitting only eight of 14 fairways. “I could have let it get away from me. I’m proud of the way I hung in there. I hung in there and got the job done.”
It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
After a short birdie putt at the par-5 11th put him at 27 under, Gainey made back-to-back bogeys and opened the door again.
“Two bogeys in a row and I don’t feel like I hit a bad shot,” he said.
He was heading in the wrong direction and found himself staring at a difficult third shot from a greenside bunker at the par-4 14th hole. That’s when the ride reached its zenith.
Gainey then did what champions do -- he pulled a shot out of nowhere when he needed it most. He pitched in for a birdie.
“The round-saver was me holing out of that bunker,” he said. “I could have easily made bogey there. That one really got me going in the right direction. That one got my momentum back.”
Gainey promptly hit his tee shot on the next hole into a hazard down the right side and after taking a penalty drop, stuffed his third shot to within eight feet and canned that putt for par, essentially slamming the door.
“I learned a great lesson on the PGA Tour in 2008 and that is you never give up,” he said. “You never know. It doesn’t matter how good you hit it or how bad you hit it because you’ve always got that next shot.”
Up by three with three to go, the man who signs autographs “2 Gloves” played it safe and aimed at the middle of the greens.
Affrunti made a run early on with a 6-under 30 on the front side to reach 23 under but didn’t make another birdie until 17. Playing in the group directly in front of the leader, Affrunti settled for a par 5 at the final hole.
“It didn’t really set in that I was going to win until I saw Joe putt out on 18 and not make birdie,” said Gainey. “Once he putted out, I knew it was mine to lose.”
Gainey added a two-putt birdie to make the final margin three strokes and get him to 27 under par, matching the second-lowest sub-par total in Tour history.
Fourth-Round Notes: Tommy Gainey took over the No. 1 spot on the money list from Chris Kirk (tied for fifth). Gainey increased his season total to $306,307. Kirk is No. 2 with $287,088. Gainey is the fourth different player to hold the No. 1 position through 15 weeks: Bobby Gates (8 weeks), Kevin Chappell (3 weeks), Kirk (3 weeks). … Gainey becomes the first two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour this year. His second win comes in the Tour’s 15th event. This year matches the third-longest time frame before a double winner emerged on Tour. In 1996, 23 tournaments were needed before the Tour had its first two-time winner. In 1998, 16 tournaments were needed. In 1995 and 2008, it also took 15 tries before the Tour had a repeat winner.
The TPC River’s Bend course handed out birdies at a near-record pace this week. The field accumulated 2,105 birdies over the four days, the second-highest birdie total in Tour history. … Of the 68 players who made the cut, 59 finished the week in double-digits (or better) under par. … Sunday’s scoring average for the par-72 course was 69.463. The average for the week was 69.691.
Bradley Iles was disqualified for an incomplete scorecard. Iles failed to write a score for the ninth hole on his card. Iles collects last place money, but it will not be official money. … Geoffrey Sisk tied for third, matching his career-best finish in 145 total starts. He also tied for third at the 2009 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. … Jamie Lovemark started the day tied for seventh at 16 under par. This year’s Mexico Open winner shot an even-par 72 and in a 10-way tie for 21st place. … Rookie James Hahn posted a 6-under 66 to finish at 19 under and tied for 10th. This is Hahn’s fourth top-10 and seventh top-25 finish of the year. The former Cal Bear moved up four spots on the money list to No. 15.
Chris Kamin carded a 6-under 66 to reach 20 under par and finish ninth. This was Kamin’s 34th career start on Tour and his first top-10 finish. He had only one previous top-25 in his 33 starts, a tie for 19th at the 2008 Fort Smith Classic. … Chris Nallen shot a 7-under 65 to get to 21 under. He finished tied for fifth, his third top-10 of the year. … Joe Affrunti matched the low front-nine score of the week with a 6-under 30. … Peter Tomasulo ran off four straight birdies starting at No. 6. D.J. Brigman had four in a row starting at No. 5. There were 17 players who made four consecutive birdies this week. … John Riegger had five birdies and an eagle over a stretch of seven holes, starting at No. 6. Riegger jumped from 13 under to 20 under with his run. He shot a 67 and finished at 19 under, tied for 10th.