Roland Thatcher went into the Monterey Peninsula Classic with modest expectations. He came out of it with “a life-changing experience.”
Thatcher was hoping to crack the top 100 on the Buy.com Tour money list, but after going wire-to-wire for his first career title, the 25-year-old said it was “a dream come true.”
Even though he shot 2-over-par 74 in the final round Oct. 6, Thatcher finished at 5-under 283 to beat two-time Australian Open champion Aaron Baddeley (final-round 71) by two strokes.
Thatcher, Baddeley (285) and Barry Cheesman (287) were the only players to finish under par at Bayonet Golf Course, the toughest track on the Buy.com Tour. Cheesman had a final-round 72.
Only five players broke par on the final day and none were better than 2-under 70 on a course that played to a stroke average of 75.421.
“I honestly won’t know the full extent of this for a while,” said Thatcher, who jumped from No. 112 to No. 33 on the money list after collecting the $81,000 first-place check.
In addition to moving the Auburn University grad up the money list with three events left, it also gives him a chance to finish in the top 15 and secure a PGA Tour card for the 2003 season.
Thatcher, who started the week with a Bayonet competitive course-record 66, opened the final round with a five-stroke lead over Australians Baddeley and Anthony Painter and six over Cheesman and Charles Warren.
While Thatcher was trying to survive a roller-coaster round (four birdies, six bogeys), Baddeley, 21, was playing a steady round that consisted of two birdies and one bogey.
“I played great today,” said Baddeley, who is now No. 17 on the earnings list. “I hit it well and putted well. I kept trying to put pressure on him by hitting good shots.”
If Baddeley’s goal was to keep the pressure on, Thatcher said it worked.
“I’ve never been shaking so bad my entire life over short putts and shots from the fairway,” Thatcher said. “I’m glad I started out with such a big lead because I tried to give it away a couple times. Aaron was only a couple of putts from pulling it off.”
– Staff and wire reports