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Hicks captures second Nationwide Tour title

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Nationwide TourSPARTANBURG, S.C. – Justin Hicks won the BMW Charity Pro-Am on Sunday for his second career Nationwide Tour title, closing with a birdie for a 5-under 66 and a two-stroke victory over four players at rainy Thornblade Club.

Hicks finished at 20-under 266 in the three-course event and earned $108,000 to jump from 47th to seventh on the money list with $138,010. The 35-year-old former Michigan player also won the tour’s 2008 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic.

“The first puts you on the map,” Hicks said. “The second one says that you’re not a one-hit wonder. I’d like to think I can make a career out of this game. It will probably take a day or two before this sinks in. Right now it just feels like I won the race for the day, not the whole tournament.”

Justin Hicks wins Nationwide BMW trophyKevin Chappell (68), Tommy Gainey (67), Chris Kirk (66) and Jamie Lovemark (65) tied for second. Fabian Gomez, the 54-hole leader who lost a playoff last year to Michael Sim in the event, bogeyed the final hole for a 72 to finish sixth at 17 under.

Scott Gutschewski and amateur partner Rolf Klam won the pro-am title at 47 under, beating Rob Oppenheim and baseball Hall of Famer Jim Rice by four strokes.

Hicks began the final round tied for fourth, three shots behind Gomez, then moved into contention with three birdies on his first six holes, joining a pack that, at one time, had five players tied for the lead and another five a shot back.

“I kept saying all week it was going to be a shootout,” Hicks said. “We just had to stay patient enough and keep giving ourselves plenty of opportunities. I know I’ve had better putting weeks than this but my ball-striking took me home this week.”

Hicks missed only five greens in four days. He hit all 18 the first day, 17 in second and third rounds and 15 Sunday.

Birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 put Hicks at 19 under, and he held a one-shot lead when a thunderstorm rolled through, forcing him, Gomez and Gomez’s amateur partner off the course just after they hit their tee shots on the 72nd hole.

“I’ve learned over the years that the best defense is a good offense,” Hicks said. “I knew birdie would take care of everything and a par would be probably be good enough.”

The delay lasted an hour.

“The break was great,” Hicks said. “We just went to a place nearby where it was quiet. We listened to music and relaxed. I know how to play this game and I didn’t want to be around a bunch of people telling me what I needed to do.”

Hicks hit a 7-iron from 173 yards to 3 feet to set up his final birdie.

“I don’t like looking at the leaderboard. I just try to play my best golf,” Hicks said. “I’m out there playing a game and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”