SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Cameron Champ birdied the 72nd hole to capture an emotional triumph yesterday at the US PGA Safeway Open, a victory the 24-year-old American dedicated to his cancer-stricken grandfather.
“If I win no more tournaments or 10 more tournaments, this will be the greatest win of my golfing career for sure,” a tearful Champ said after sinking the four-foot birdie putt that gave him a one-stroke triumph.
Champ began the final round at Silverado with a three-stroke lead, saw it erased when Canada’s Adam Hadwin birdied the last three holes to match him on 16-under, then responded with two strong shots and a chip to four feet at the par-5 18th before his winning putt.
“That was the first time I didn’t feel nervous all day,” said Champ, who didn’t hit a fairway off the tee until the 12th hole.
Champ fired a final-round three-under par 69 to finish 72 holes on 17-under 271 at Napa, California – barely an hour’s drive from the Sacramento area where he grew up and learnt to golf thanks in part to his grandfather Mack.
“It just means everything,” Champ said while wiping away tears. “It has been tough but my dad is here. I just have so much support, family members and friends.”
Champ’s grandfather has stage four stomach cancer and is undergoing hospice treatments at the family’s home, where he watched Cameron’s victory.
“No words. I had no emotions up until now,” said Jeff Champ, Cameron’s father whose own father is terminally ill, diagnosed with late-stage cancer in July.
Champ defended his first PGA title, from last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship, last week and then flew to California, where he was told his grandfather’s condition had him in hospice care at home.
Champ opened with a birdie, added back-to-back birdies at the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth holes, and answered a bogey at the eighth with a birdie at nine.
Seven pars followed before Champ missed a four-foot par putt at the 17th for a bogey that allowed late-charging Hadwin to shoot 67 and grab a share of the lead, setting the stage for Champ’s dramatic finish.
Hadwin settled for second by a stroke with Australia’s Marc Leishman third on 274 after a closing 65.
Americans Justin Thomas, Zac Blair and Charles Howell shared fourth on 275 with China’s Zhang Xinjun, South African Dylan Frittelli and Aussie Cameron Percy sharing seventh on 276.