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Big Breaks Gainey captures Nationwide Tour event

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Nationwide TourCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Tommy Gainey won the Prince George’s County Open for his first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 6-under 65 on Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Frank Lickliter II and Jin Park.

Gainey two-putted the final hole for birdie, rolling in a 3-footer to finish at 17-under 267 on the University of Maryland course. He earned $108,000 to jump from 18th to second on the money list with $191,640. The final top 25 will earn 2010 PGA Tour cards.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know any other way to describe it,” Gainey said. “This is one step in getting back to the PGA Tour, but this is also to say that these guys out here on the Nationwide Tour are really great players. There are no slouches out here.”

Lickliter, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, finished with a 66, while Park closed with a 69. Paul Claxton (66), Nick Flanagan (67) and Kyle Stanley (67) tied for fourth at 15 under.

Three shots behind co-leaders Park and B.J. Staten at the start of the round, Gainey quickly moved to the front of the pack with four birdies and an eagle on his first seven holes. When the man nicknamed “Two Gloves” rolled in a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 7, he was at 17 under and led by two.

A rope-hook drive on the difficult ninth hole put him in the trees and some heavy rough. He took a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie and eventually made a double-bogey 6, dropping into four-way tie for the lead with Park, Stanley and Justin Peters.

“As bad a tee shot as I hit there, I deserved whatever I made there,” Gainey said. “My blood pressure was pretty high and I’ll leave it at that.”

Gainey regrouped quickly, with the help of his caddie.

“He told me that all we wanted was a shot going into the back nine on Sunday and I had a shot,” he said. “He told me to keep plugging.”

Gainey rolled in a birdie at No. 11 to regain the lead while the rest of the pack struggled to make birdies.

“This course reminded me of a U.S. Open golf course,” said the winner, set to play in a sectional qualifier Monday in nearby Rockville. “The rough is thick, the fairways are hard and the greens are fast.”

On the final hole, Gainey ripped a 3-iron hybrid on the uphill par-5 that settled 35 feet from the pin.

“I was nervous. I was just trying to get it close,” Gainey said. “It was downhill, sidehill with 2 to 3 feet of break. I was trying to make it easy for myself on the second putt. I didn’t want to have to grind over a 4- or 5-footer. I had perfect speed for the putt, but I didn’t read the break right.”

Gainey’s putt settled 3 feet past the cup.

“Of course I was nervous,” he said. “I’d be telling a fib if I wasn’t. I’ve been close to winning this year but I’ve come up a couple shots short. This feels really good to get it done.”