Ryan Brehm said he didn’t let himself think about the win, money or the lease on a new Cadillac until the tournament was over.
Then he couldn’t stop smiling.
“I don’t even know how to feel about winning a Cadillac,” he said. “I’m thinking it might be a little out of my league, but I’m really going to enjoy driving it.”
The 28-year-old PGA Tour Canada golfer won the 97th Michigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Village Golf Club Thursday. It was his third Open title.
The Mount Pleasant native, Grand Rapids resident and former Michigan State star shot a closing 1-over-par 73 and had to hold off a the charge of Petoskey’s Joey Garber, who shot 68 and after nine holes of play in the final round was within one shot.
“It’s a lot of relief right now after a long day,” said Brehm, who finished with a 20-under-par total of 268, two shots better than Garber (270) and seven better than six-time Michigan Open champion Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (275).
“I started the day with a large lead and it was difficult to get the right mind-set throughout the day. Joey Garber played an awesome round of golf, too. He put a whole lot of pressure on me. I tried to stay patient and do the things I needed to do to win. It feels really good to have pulled it off.
For the victory he garnered $8,500 and a one-year lease from LaFontaine on a new Cadillac. He also will have his name inscribed on the James Standish Trophy. He is listed twice already having won the Michigan Open in 2009 and ’10.
“This tournament means so much to me because it is at home, in Michigan and honestly I feel every win gets me one step closer to my goal, which is to play at the highest level,” he said. “It’s not about the money or the car, though those are really great and I will enjoy them. It’s about the satisfaction of accomplishing something, getting the job done.”
Brehm set a Prestwick course record with a 9-under-par 63 in the third round Wednesday which gave him a seven-shot lead to start the day.
Garber, making his professional debut after a stellar college career at the University of Georgia, started on fire with five birdies in the first seven holes, and was within one shot after Brehm pushed a 5-iron shot over the ninth green and then three-putted for a double-bogey 6. Brehm birdied No. 10 though, matched Garber’s birdie at No. 15 and saved a clutch par from in front of the green at No. 17.
“I was feeling good with the putter when I was 5-under through seven, and I thought I could roll some in late if I needed,” Garber said. “They just didn’t fall and Ryan did exactly what he had to do. He played a great back nine given the circumstances. I’m pleased for him and for myself for giving it a great shot.”
Garber picked up a check of $5,000, Hebert took home $4,000 after his closing 70 and Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, the 2007 Michigan Open champion, tied for fourth at 277 with low amateur Alexander Dombrowski, a Princeton University golfer from Gaylord. Ruthkoski shot 72 to close and Dombrowski shot 68.
Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, a co-leader with Brehm after each of the first two rounds, finished with a 75 for 278 and sixth place.
Brehm said the addition of a Cadillac lease to the benefits of winning the Michigan Open is a great thing.
“If you’ve played professional golf for a few years you understand how it’s really the sponsors that make it all possible,” he said. “For LaFontaine to sponsor this championship is a great thing. To have a Cadillac lease be part of it is a little overwhelming. I really want to thank them for doing this. It makes it even more special.”
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