Brian Gay Notches Career-Changing Win at Verizon Heritage

2009 Verizon Heritage winner Brian GayDespite an impressive list of past champions that includes the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart, the Verizon Heritage is quickly gaining a reputation as a career launching PGA Tour event.

During the past two-plus decades, players of the ilk of Davis Love III, Aaron Baddeley and Boo Weekley have earned their first career victory at Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Golf Links. Other more obscure players have enjoyed magical Heritage weekends such as Glen Day, Jose Coceres and Peter Lonard on their way to life-changing triumphs. 

Such was the case again during the 41st Heritage played this past April as journeyman Brian Gay set multiple records en route to his second PGA Tour victory, but first on U.S. soil and in a full-field PGA Tour event.  Entering the weekend in contention but not on the top of the leaderboard, Gay lapped the field Saturday and Sunday en route to a Heritage record 20-under winning mark and a 10-shot victory, also a tournament record.

Teeing off Sunday afternoon with a three-shot lead, Gay stared birdie-eagle on the first two holes and never looked back, distancing himself from second-place finishers Luke Donald and Briny Baird, who were essentially playing for second place the minute Gay walked off the par-5 second hole with a six-shot lead in his pocket.

“I was still nervous,” Gay said after growing his lead in the opening holes. “It calmed me down a little bit, but it didn’t change anything. There were so many holes left I knew I had to stay focused and keep hitting good, solid shots.”

That is exactly what Gay did en route to a 7-under 64, a showing far good enough for his second career victory. Last year, Gay won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, a tournament played opposite the World Match Play Championship, a World Golf Championship event, and without any players among the top 64 in the world.

While that victory went largely unnoticed, winning the Heritage, which follows The Masters on the PGA Tour schedule, has earned the former Florida Gator plenty of notoriety and his first trip to Augusta National in 2010. As an opposite week tournament, Gay’s win in Mexico did not earn him a spot in the 2009 Masters.

“I’ve had a lot of heartache not getting into that tournament,” Gay said of his desire to play in The Masters. “Winning and not getting in, and missing by one spot on the money list two times, I just figured who cares? What’s going to happen is going to happen, so just go play golf.”

Brian Gay

Among the players left in Gay’s wake were two-time defending champion Boo Weekley and Love, a five-time winner at Harbour Town Golf Links. Both fan favorites, neither player provided much of charge on Sunday, and really only Love had a chance heading into the final round, trailing by a handful of strokes after a decent performance in the first three rounds. Despite finishing in the middle of the pack, Weekley once again was serenaded with “Boos” from a gallery that has come to love the Florida native for his down-home attitude and awe-shucks nature on and off the golf course.

“I’m still a champ, they can’t take that away from me,” Weekley said. “I just wasn’t this year’s champion. It’s tough, I really like this golf course and its right there in front of me, and unfortunately, I couldn’t do nothing with it.”

For his part, Gay didn’t have any problems with the Pete Dye-designed Harbour Town and now owns one of those champion’s Tartan Jackets Boo’s been sporting the past two years. While the jacket might not be his kind of fashion statement, Gay’s play said plenty about the kind of game he has and what the future might just hold for him. 

 

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