Jason Gore is on a ride that he hopes doesn’t end.
Gore captured the public’s attention by playing in the final group at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June, then found another gear by winning three consecutive Nationwide starts to
earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour, shooting 59 along the way.
He continued to build on his unforgettable season with his first PGA Tour victory Sept. 18 at the
84 Lumber Classic. After starting 2005 with only partial status on the Nationwide Tour, Gore now
has an exemption on the PGA Tour through 2007.
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Gore, 31, who played on a sponsor exemption (he was unable to get into the field on his PGA Tour number). “(In May), I was wondering if I could get formula for my child, if
I was going to make a house payment, and now look: They just handed me a check for $792,000.
“It’s amazing where a little perseverance and grit and maybe a little ignorance can take you.”
Gore shot a final-round 70 to finish at 14-under 274 and hold off Carlos Franco (69) by a shot.
Gore’s four-stroke lead with five holes to play was whittled to one by the time he reached No. 18, and he landed his approach shot on the 468-yard par 4 on the lower fringe, 92 feet from the flagstick.
“Is that how long it was? It felt like 6 miles,” he said.
With a playoff looming if he didn’t get down in two shots, Gore deftly lagged his putt to 2 feet and tapped in for the Tour victory he once thought might never come.
“I hit the best putt of my life,” he said. “What made it easier is the putt was so hard – I had to go up and down two elephants and over the windmill.
It worked out, luckily.”
“Sometimes, you have to dig a little deep.”
Gore never finished higher than 18th during two previous stays on the PGA Tour (2001 and 2003), and had won only $40,399 in four 2005 starts prior to the 84 Lumber. He joins Paul Stankowski (1996) in winning on the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour in the same year.
Gore is the fourth player to earn a battlefield promotion and win on the PGA Tour – the first
to do so in the same season. Chris Smith (1997 promotion, PGA Tour winner in 2002), Heath Slocum (2001, 2004), Chad Campbell (2001, 2003), Pat Bates (2001), Patrick Moore (2002) and Tom Carter (2003) are the other battlefield promotion players.
Gore opened a two-shot lead with a third-round 5-under 67 at the 7,416-yard Mystic Rock course, then never trailed on a Sunday that was a polar opposite of the U.S. Open, when he shot 14-over 84 playing alongside Retief Goosen in the final group.
Franco, playing one group ahead of Gore, tied him briefly with a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole, but Gore answered minutes later with an eagle on the same hole after hitting his second shot to 12 feet.
“He wasn’t nervous because he’s won three times on the Nationwide Tour,” said Franco.
But Gore, who contemplated giving up the pro game this spring, was feeling the nerves. He said the pressure was much worse than at the Open.
“It was pretty brutal,” Gore said. “It was a lot more than I expected. . . . I never really played well in a PGA Tour event. Before, I never really had anything to lose, and now I had something to prove.”
Gore seemed at home at a tournament where big hitters own an advantage.
His mother, Kathy, grew up in Pittsburgh and relocated back there four years ago. (Gore’s father, Sheldon, died unexpectedly shortly before Jason was going to make his pro debut, and Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of his burial.) Gore first played the game during a summertime of shagging balls and driving golf carts at the public Manor Valley course, a suburban Pittsburgh course where his late uncle, John Kovach, was the pro.
While he is riding a high point in his career, Gore has had his share of lows, but he’s stuck to it.
“Anything is possible with desire and ambition, and for God’s sake, I even graduated college,” Gore said. “If that doesn’t prove something with a little grit and ambition, that once you put your mind to something, just stick to it and believe in yourself and believe in what you’ve got and surround yourself with some great people, and no matter what happens, you’re always a winner.”
And now, Gore is a PGA Tour winner.
“I’m going to cherish this for a long, long time,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”
– Staff and wire reports