LA QUINTA, Calif. – It's been an epic few days on the Championship fight, full of 36-hole and single-day records.
So it comes with little surprise that the finish would be one for the ages.
When 54-hole leader Jordan Massey holed a long putt for bogey on the 18th hole of the Nicklaus Tournament course for an even-par 72, his group thought he'd held on for the victory over defending champion Paul Erdman, who began the day two shots back and shot 71.
But, little did they know, in the group ahead, Cullen Brasfield had gone low. Really low, a final-round 66, to steal the Championship flight by one shot over Massey.
His 66 tied an Am Tour National Championship record that was set by Paul Erdman just a day earlier.
While Erdman and Massey had both gone low in earlier rounds, they also had a round in the high-70s. Brasfield, meanwhile, had three steady rounds of 74-73-73 to quietly creep behind them. In the final round, he birdied the first two holes, and then alteranated between bogeys and birdies the rest of the front nine to turn in 1-under on the day.
But four birdies in a row between Nos. 14-17 (including a near ace on 17) put Brasfield in the driver's seat. A par on the 18th gave him a chance. Massey, meanwhile, bogeyed 17 and 18 and slipped into second place.
"I got it going today," said Brasfield, who scored nine birdies on the round. "I got the flatstick rolling, and that's what you need to do to win out here."
It's common for champions to thank their families, but Brasfield truly owes a special debt to his wife Athena. When they moved to La Quinta last year to be closer to family, she encouraged her husband, a former collegiate golfer at San Diego University and University of Nevada, to play more golf. It had been over 12 years since his last tournament when he teed it up in an event last June.
This year, she prompted him to join the Golf Channel Am Tour, where he played in six events, and that's not all.
"She came home the day before the Q-School application was due and said 'sign up for this.'"
So Brasfield signed up. And in the event at the Yolo Friers Club a couple weeks ago, he qualified, and will compete in Stage 1 of Q-School next month at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Arizona. But first, it's a night out on the town to celebrate with his better half. She had gotten off work and made it to PGA West just in time for the winner's announcement.
"I'm very lucky," said Brasfield.
"And, she's a doctor."
A long time coming for Palmer flight champion
The sweetest victories are often those that take the longest to accomplish. For Kelly Moore, it took 12 years between joining the Golf Channel Am Tour in 2003 to finally win the National Championship.
Moore, from El Cajon, Calif., entered the final round in the lead by two shots over David Jonas, from Hermosa Beach, Calif. Throughout the round, he knew he had a slight cushion. Playing with the lead for the full 18 holes proved to be a tough spot. He double bogeyed the first hole and had two triple-bogeys on the outward nine, but managed three birdies, too.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Moore. "I had some holes I wish I could take back. I did my best to keep my head in it."
Turns out, playing the 18th of the Stadium Course safe backfired. His approach shot, a draw to the right side and away from the water hazard, hit a cart path and catapulted into deep rough. He ultimately made a double bogey, but still prevailed by two shots over Kim Shek, from Bellevue, Wash.
Moore took four years off Am Tour between 2008-11 to focus on his daughters' softball teams. He came back in 2012 a little older and wiser.
"I felt stronger this year," said Moore, who in earlier years had had some back trouble. "This year I'd been shooting a lot better than past years."
Now, Moore, finally a National Champion, will move out of the Palmer flight, where he has been since he joined Am Tour. The 50-year-old will enter the 2015-16 season in the Senior Championship flight.