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By Ryan Woodcock

CONGRATS to GPT alum Edward Loar for earning his first career win on the Nationwide Tour this week at the Panama Claro Championship.  Loar, a rookie on the PGA TOUR this year after finishing T18 at Q-School in 2011, was playing his first Nationwide Tour event this season, finishing at 4-under for the week to earn the 1-shot victory.

Loar, who hadn’t had a significant victory since winning the Korean Open (Asian Tour) in 2004, held a four-shot lead going into the final-round, and increased that to five shots after a birdie on the fourth hole.  But he made things interesting with a bogey on the par-3 sixth and a triple-bogey on the par-4 seventh, dropping back to the pack. 

“The triple was just bad shots followed by bad shots,” Loar said.  I was thinking I was glad I had a four-shot lead to start with.  I obviously let a lot of people back in the tournament, but that’s why you play 72 holes.”

That pack included a foursome of players who made runs at Loar, including two other GPT alums, Brian Smock and Luke List.  Smock birdied two of his last four holes to share the clubhouse lead at 3-under with List, who made birdie on the final hole to get to 3-under as well.  Cameron Percy and Ryan Armour, who bogeyed the final hole to drop to 3-under, also tied for the lead and waited to see what Loar would do down the stretch.

While Loar struggled to a 4-over 74 on the final day, he stepped up when it counted, drilling a clutch 25-foot putt for birdie to go back on top at 4-under par.  He closed out with two pars and secured his first Nationwide Tour win with a 6-foot par putt.

“Yea, I was nervous,” Loar said following his round. “It was the first time in a while that I’d been in the lead, especially on a stage like this. I think anybody that said they weren’t is crazy. On a course like this anything can happen as it’s shown all week. Unfortunately it came up and bit me a couple of times.”

For the week, a total of 32 GPT alums made the cut, with eight finishing in the Top-10 and 10 finishing in the Top-20.  List and Smock finished T2 at 3-under par; while Mike Lavery, Steve LeBrun, B.J. Staten, Aaron Goldberg and Justin Hicks finished T9 at 1-over.

Lavery shot a bogey-free 65 in the final round, and followed up his T38 last week with his Top-10 finish.  Goldberg carded a birdie on the final hole to jump into the Top-10, while Lebrun followed up his T20 last week with his Top-20. 

Rounding out the Top-20 were Michael Connell and Kevin Johnson, who finished T-19 at 2-over; while Josh Broadaway, Troy Merritt, Cesar Costilla and Chris Wilson finished T25 at 3-over.

For complete results from the Panama Claro Championship, CLICK HERE

While a number of GPT alums were tearing it up on the Nationwide Tour, a handful also were doing the same at PGA National for the Honda Classic.  Tom Gillis shot 68-64 through the first two days to share the second-round lead with Justin Rose, and after a third-round 69, found himself just two shots back of Rory Mcllroy heading into the final round. 

The 43-year-old Gillis was paired in the final group with a couple of youngsters – Mcllroy and rookie Harris English, both just 22 years of age.  He had an up-and-down final round, recording four birdies and three bogeys to match McIIroy’s 69, but it wasn’t enough to catch last year’s U.S. Open winner.

Still, Gillis finished T2 at 10-under for the week, his best career finish on the PGA TOUR, and went toe-to-toe with the eventual No. 1 ranked player in the world.  Oh, and the guy he ended up tied with was a golfer by the name of Tiger Woods, who made big news with his final round 62. 

“It was just one of those days,” Gillis said after his round.  “He (Rory) played well. I think any time you get in there and butt heads with the top players in the world, it’s good for you.  I was a little nervous, but I knew I was playing well, so I wasn’t going to freak out or anything. I really thought I could beat him. I thought I could, if I got the putter going and got some momentum. But it just didn’t happen.”

For the week, a total of 18 GPT alums finished in the money, with three making the Top-10 and five finishing in the Top-25.

Kevin Stadler and Chris Stroud also cracked the Top-10, both finishing T9 at 5-under par.  Stroud shot rounds of 70-69-67-69 to earn his second Top-10 and fourth Top-15 of the year, good enough to move up to 35th in the FedEx Cup standings.  Stadler has been playing progressively better with each passing week, finishing 25, T24, T16 and T9 in his last four starts.

Jeff Overton shot a second-round 65 and finished T18 at 2-under, while Spencer Levin carded rounds of 72-69-67-71 to finish T21 at 1-under par.  Overton has made the cut in four of five starts this year; while Levin earned his fourth Top-25 and currently sits 14th in the FedEx Cup rankings.

For complete results from The Honda Classic, CLICK HERE

Next up on the PGA TOUR is another World Golf Championships event – the Cadillac Championship at Doral, Mar. 8-11.  Those not in the Doral field will head to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Open.  The Nationwide Tour heads to Santiago, Chile for the Chile Classic, also Mar. 8-11.  Congratulations once again to Edward Loar, way to hold on for the win in Panama.  And Congrats to Tom Gillis for an outstanding effort going against Rory Mcllroy and the surging Tiger Woods, it was fun to watch. 

Good luck to everyone playing this week, and as always, check back here for a complete recap!