Champion is crowned

Hadley wins 2017 LECOM Health Challenge

Chesson Hadley taps in his final putt as he wins the LeCom Health Challenge PGA Tour at Peek n Peak July 9, 2017 photo by Mark L. Anderson

FINDLEY LAKE — Wednesday, Chesson Hadley got to celebrate his 30th birthday.

Sunday, the native of Raleigh, North Carolina gave himself quite the belated birthday present: his third career Tour victory.

Hadley nearly flawlessly made his way through the Upper Course at Peek’n Peak yet again, carding an impressive 7-under-par 65 in the final round to finish at 23-under overall, which was ultimately good enough to outlast Beau Hossler (22-under) and claim the title at the Tour’s 2017 LECOM Health Challenge.

The win vaulted Hadley from No. 22 all the way to No. 4 on the money list and also allowed him to secure his PGA TOUR card for next season.

Adam Long was behind Hossler in third place at 19-under and Sam Ryder, who played with Hadley in the final pairing, ended up in solo fourth at 18-under.

After bogeying the second hole, Hadley reeled off birdies on Nos. 4, 6, 8 and 9 to kick start his round.

He continued to roll on the back nine, recording an eagle on No. 11, a birdie on No. 12 and another birdie on No. 17. Arguably one of his most important holes, however, was No 16, where he was able to chip in from a tough spot to save par. That huge par save went a long way in the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket holding off Hossler.

“Sometimes this game rewards you for having a good attitude and I truly believe that,” Hadley said of his crucial chip on No. 16. “That is not a very good golf hole.”

I hit a great shot today. It took kind of a big bounce and I saw it bounce a couple of times. …It was a really bad lie. I shrugged it off, accepted it and said, ‘hey, this is where we are’ and obviously ran it down the hill. I believe I chipped in because I didn’t let that affect me. Call it karma or you reap what you sow. Certainly, that’s what won the golf tournament for me along with the birdie on 17.

“…Even if I didn’t win today, let’s say I shot 21-under and lost by one, you can’t walk away from that and feel anything but positive about where your game is,” he continued. “I know 23-under is probably a record for me. I know I shot 22-under when I won in Puerto Rico on TOUR. But 23-under is the best I’ve shot. I peaked at the right time. The key is to maintain it. Let’s try to not get on the other side of the bell curve, let’s stay where we are. Either plateau or keep trying to climb.”

The victory in Puerto Rico Hadley mentioned was his lone win on the PGA TOUR back in 2014 in the Puerto Rico Open. During that same season, he was named the PGA TOUR’s Rookie of the Year.

It’s been a bit of a struggle for Hadley at times since then, whether he’s competed on the Tour or the PGA TOUR, but he’s continued to grind and work his way back to top form.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve won, it’s been since 2014,” Hadley explained. “Gosh, that’s almost three years, and I’ve went to the bottom. Winning on TOUR and Rookie of the Year. You do this, do that and you start to spiral, lose your confidence and get negative. I’ve gone from the top to the bottom and it doesn’t take long. I was just kind of reliving some emotions that I haven’t had in a long time. I’m really thankful (and) I hope that I can remember what it was like and what it’s like now and not lose perspective or maintain some perspective.”

Hossler opened the LECOM Health Challenge on Thursday with just an even-par 72. Over the next three rounds, he shot 22-under. Despite nine birdies and an eventual 8-under 64 on Sunday, it just wasn’t enough for the talented 22-year old to chase down Hadley. His outstanding performance did move him to No. 17 on the money list.

“I played great,” Hossler stressed. “Obviously any round you can look back and you know, I left a couple out there but there’s so many that I made up on the other side. I played phenomenal. Chesson (Hadley) obviously played outstanding and all credit to him. …If you were to tell me I’d shoot 22-under at the beginning of the week and not win, that’s pretty hard to believe.”

Long and Greg Eason, who ended up in a tie for 18th at 11-under, shot 8-under Sunday to tie Hossler for the low round of the day.

Adam Schenk and Jeff Gove tied for fifth at 16-under while Rob Oppenheim and Austin Cook tied for seventh at 15-under.