‘Long shot’ wins Avoca Classic

Published 7:24 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

MERRY HILL– After receiving a $22,000 check for winning the Avoca Classic at Scotch Hall Preserve on Sunday, Rhein Gibson looked around and said, “I’m surprised as anyone I’m standing here.”

Gibson’s bewilderment was due to the fact that on Friday he needed a birdie on the 36th hole just to make the cut. However, after shooting a 4-under 68 in the Saturday third round and carding a 6-under 66 on Sunday he earned his first NGA TOUR victory in true come-from-behind fashion.

“I made the cut on the number, but I knew I was playing good,” said Gibson, who finished with a 72-hole score of 8-under 280. “I tried to give myself some opportunities in the last few rounds. I made a couple of good putts today.”

With most of the leaders trying to stay in red numbers during the blustery conditions in the final round, Gibson had no such trouble on Sunday navigating the picturesque course along North Carolina’s Inner Banks on the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound. The Australian golfer, who lives in Oklahoma, ran off four birdies over his first seven holes to move into contention, then two more over his final eight to grab the top spot on the leaderboard.

Gibson, who lives in Oklahoma City, dedicated his win to that region’s recent tornado victims.

“The way the wind was blowing, it felt like a tornado out there,” he deadpanned.

“I knew it was playing tough, so I thought if I could post a score it may hold up,” said Gibson, who started the final round in a tie for 19th.

“I felt if I could birdie one or two holes coming in that I would have a good chance at winning.”

Gibson wasn’t able to add any more birdies to his card over the final six holes, but pars proved to be just as good on the wind-battered closing holes. He headed to the clubhouse at 8-under par, one shot behind third round leader Jeff Corr.

Corr, the 2011 NGA TOUR Player of the Year, didn’t have as much luck on the backside on Sunday. He carried a one-shot lead into the 12th, but his third bogey of the day left him tied with Gibson at 8 under. After finding the green in regulation on 16 and 17, Corr carded three-putt bogeys on both and removed any doubt from the outcome; shooting a final-round 75, finishing at 6-under par and earning $11,414 for the runner-up effort.

Like Gibson, Martin Jeppesen also made a nice move up the leaderboard in the final round. The Michigan native shot a 2-under 70 to jump from tied for 18th to a tie for third.

Two-time 2013 winner Jon Curran pulled to within one shot of the lead at the turn, but a double bogey on number-11 knocked him from contention and he finished the final round with a 3-over 75, joining Jeppesen and Jeff Dennis in a tie for third. The trio earned $7,181 each.

This wasn’t just Gibson’s first win; it was also his first NGA Tour event of 2013. He plays mostly on the Asian Tour, but is back in the U.S. while that tour is on a three-month break. Monday he was off to try and qualify for the web.com Tour’s Rex Hospital Open at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh with a $625,000 purse. If not he’ll rejoin the NGA Tour later this week at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Snow Hill.

“The NGA Tour would like to thank all the sponsors, staff and volunteers at Scotch Hall Preserve for all their help in making the 2013 Avoca Classic a wonderful event,” said Tour Media Relations director, Paul Warner.

The NGA Pro Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States after the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour and is the top recommended developmental tour by more tour pros.