Lingmerth headed for PGA Tour next year after winning Neediest Kids Championship

|
Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

In the final round of the Neediest Kids Championship, the British Open broke out.

With drizzle falling from dark skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm felt more like Muirfield or Carnoustie.

Leave it to a player from Sweden to shoot the best round of the day and win the tournament. Firing a 4-under-par 66, David Lingmerth beat Casey Wittenberg by a stroke, captured his first Web.com Tour title and assured his advancement to the PGA Tour.

"This morning, going to the course, I was kind of fist pumping," Lingmerth said of the steady rain that later turned intermittent. "This is a good day in Sweden. I'm used to playing in this type of weather."

Several players said it was the first such day this season on the Web.com Tour, which opened with stops in Colombia, Panama and Chile. The weather obviously agreed with Lingmerth (8-under 272 for the tournament). His final-round score was two strokes better than anyone in the field. He birdied five of the first 14 holes and didn't make a bogey until No. 18.

Lingmerth needed his best stuff after opening the final round tied for eighth place, four shots behind leader Josh Persons and three behind Tom Hoge. Oddly enough, the top two entering Sunday were friends from Fargo, N.D. But playing in the final threesome, both were in uncharted waters. Persons, playing in just his second Web.com event, shot 77, while Web.com rookie Hoge skied to a 76, allowing Lingmerth to made up ground quickly.

The first time the Arkansas alum looked at a scoreboard was at No. 13. It showed he had a one-shot lead. Lingmerth promptly stuck a wedge to within a foot for a birdie. On the next hole Lingmerth roled in a 15-footer for birdie to stretch his lead to three shots.

"I knew, here it is," Lingmerth said. "It's mine for the taking."

At No. 15 Lingmerth hit his downhill approach 20 yards short of the green but followed with a brilliant pitch shot off a tight lie to within tap-in range. Routine tap-in pars followed on the next two holes. At No. 18, Lingmerth pushed his drive into the rough and decided the safe route -- lay up and two-putt bogey.

"With a bogey I'm still okay," Lingmerth said. "I can't make a double or anything worse like that."

All that was left for Lingmerth was to watch the scoreboard as the final groups came in. Wittenberg was the only player who made a serious run as he played the back nine in 4 under, making birdies at the even-numbered holes until the 18th, where he left his approach 35 feet short. Wittenberg made a good run at his birdie putt but was a few inches right of the hole.

At No. 2 on the money list, Wittenberg's second promotion to the PGA is assured next year. He might have won Sunday if he had adjusted earlier to the weather, but he made three bogeys on the first eight holes.

"This was the first cold weather golf tournament we've played," said Wittenberg, 27. "A little bit unsure on how far you were going to hit every shot. I struggled with that early in the round. I got comfortable with it on the back nine. Realistically, having to birdie two holes coming in, I didn't give myself a real good birdie effort on either 17 or 18. It's a little disappointing."

Lingmerth was the beneficiary. His best chance to win came in July in Indianapolis, where he lost in four sudden-death holes to Peter Tomasulo. The possibility of another playoff came Sunday as Wittenberg stroked his birdie putt on the 72nd hole. As he did so, Lingmerth was in the clubhouse stretching. He didn't want to watch.

Moments later, he shared an embrace with his girlfriend of three years, Megan Mercurio. Tears poured from her eyes. Then she gave Lingmerth a gentle nudge toward the 18th green where officials were setting up for closing ceremonies.

"Go get your trophy," Mercurio said.

With a winner's check of $108,000 and his ticket punched to the PGA Tour, Lingmerth won much more than a trophy Sunday. Last year, he placed 27th on the Web.com Tour money list, two places shy of promotion.

"I've never gotten anything for free," Lingmerth said. "I've had to work my way up. Obviously this is another step that I'm proud to take."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment