Rookie Stefani gets initial Tour victory at Midwest Classic

By news services

Series: Tour

Published: Sunday, August 19, 2012 | 11:38 p.m.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- As Tour rookie Shawn Stefani said minutes after his victory on Sunday, “when you win, a lot of good things go your way.” Well, a lot of good things went the former mini-tour performer’s way in the final round of the Midwest Classic, especially his second shot at No. 18.

Tied with Russell Henley at 16 under and hitting his second shot at No. 18, Stefani’s lob wedge flew over the flag, bounced off the mesh fencing at the base of the skyboxes and rolled back on the green, a mere three feet from the hole. A few minutes later, his good fortune resulted in a birdie and the outright lead, which was never relinquished. He finished two strokes better than Henley and Luke List for his first victory.


The Midwest Classic marks the two-thirds point of the 2012 Tour campaign.

“That ball at 18 could have kicked several ways, but it broke right for me. Today it went my way,” said Stefani, whose previous best finish was a tie for ninth at the Panama Claro Championship in his second start of the campaign. “The win hasn’t really sunk in yet, but this is something you dream about as a kid. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

“When the year started, I had a couple of goals. One was to win a tournament and the other was to finish in the top 25 and earn my PGA Tour card,” Stefani continued. “I was a little pumped up when I hit that second shot. The adrenaline was going, but the hardest part was making the putt after my shot.”

Stefani had been playing on the mini-tour circuit for much of the previous five years after finishing his college career at Lamar University in Texas. The Houston resident played on the NGA Hooters Tour and the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series prior to earning a spot on the Tour this year at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Stefani’s birdie on the final hole helped break a logjam on Sunday’s leaderboard. At one point more than a dozen players were within three shots of the lead. Matt Weibring, the 54-hole leader, started the day with a one-shot cushion but quickly saw that disappear when he made a double bogey on the first hole. He regrouped with successive birdies on No. 5-9 to regain the lead at the turn, but dropped out of contention with bogeys on four of his first six holes on the back nine.

That left only Henley with a chance to catch Stefani, who was playing one group in front of him. He was tied at 16 under playing No. 17, but moments after Stefani’s birdie at 18 gave him the lead, Henley made a bogey, resulting in a two-shot swing.

“I was between clubs on No. 17 and was having a little difficulty reading the wind on that hole because the houses block the wind a bit. I hit my shot about five feet left of where I wanted and it plugged in the bunker,” Henley said. “The bunkers have a ton of sand in them. I’ve never played on a course that had so much sand. It was a little disappointing since I thought I hit a pretty good shot.”

The victory helped Stefani jump from 67th to 12th on the 2012 Tour money list and move him closer to possibly earning a spot on the 2013 PGA Tour.  

Sunday Notes:

--Luke List’s tie for second was his sixth top-10 finish of the campaign and moved him atop the money list with $309,196.

--Defending champion James Nitties, who started the day tied for second, closed with a 2-over-par 73 to finish tied for 11th.

--Matt Weibring’s tie for fourth finish was his best showing since he was third at the 2008 BMW Charity Pro-Am.

--Duffy Waldorf tied for 11th in his final event before he joins the Champions Tour this coming week at the Boeing Classic near Seattle. Waldorf turns 50 on Monday.

--Former Kansas State golfer Robert Streb fired a closing-round 65 to claim a tie for eighth. Another former Big 12 performer -- Jason Schultz of Missouri – tied for eighth, his best effort of the year in seven starts

--The Tour now moves on to Knoxville, Tenn., for the News Sentinel Open.