The last player into the field, Nate Lashley has completed an unlikely and emotional wire-to-wire victory in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
The 36-year-old Lashley clinched his maiden PGA Tour title when he closed with a two-under 70 to finish at 25-under 263 and win by six shots – the margin he took into the day.
Lashley's parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash 15 years ago. He dabbled in real estate after graduating from the University of Arizona, quit playing professional golf several years ago and resumed playing in the PGA Tour's minor leagues.
"Without my parents, I wouldn't have started playing golf when I was little," said Lashley, who began playing when he was eight. "They did everything to help me have a career."
Monday qualifier Doc Redman shot a 67 to finish second. Rory Sabbatini (68) and Wes Roach (68) were another stroke back in tied third.
The 353rd ranked player in the world, Lashley only slipped into PGA Tour's first event in Detroit as an alternate on Wednesday.
Nebraskan Lashley took full advantage of the opportunity, shooting a career-low 63 in the first round to take a lead he refused to lose at Detroit Golf Club. He stayed atop the leaderboard with a 67 on Friday and gave himself a cushion with another nine-under 63 on Saturday.
"I'm just real emotional," he said. "I'm just thankful I got in the tournament."
RIGHT: Lashley with his girlfriend and sister. PHOTO: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.
On the brink of breaking through during his second PGA Tour season, his sister, girlfriend, buddies and family friends flew to Detroit to join him.
Brooke Lashley, who lives near her brother in Arizona, was in awe of as fans followed and cheered for her little brother as they stood along the ropes from tee to green.
"I'm sure a lot of these people didn't know him a couple days ago," she said.
"He's doing all he can to focus, but this is so incredible. It's foreign to him because he's never had this much attention. He's never played in front of a gallery like this with TV cameras all over the place."
In 2004, parents Rod and Char Lashley and girlfriend Leslie Hofmeister, all of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, were missing for three days before their bodies and the wreckage were found near the 13,780-foot Gannett Peak in Wyoming after watching him play in a tournament for the University of Arizona.
"It rocked our community," recalled Helen Reinhardt, a family friend from Nebraska.
Reinhardt and her husband, Jim, boarded a charter plane in Nebraska that stopped in Minnesota to pick up Lashley's girlfriend and arrived in the Motor City on Sunday.
"It's great to be here to watch his dream come true after watching him play in the Dakotas Tour and work his way up to here," said Jeff Peck, one of about a dozen of Lashley's friends at Detroit Golf Club.