Looking Back at the First-Timers Part 1

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PGA Tour (75x100)First-time winners were more frequent than inclement weather this season on the PGA Tour. Eighteen players recorded their maiden tour victories, with three winning on multiple occasions. That number easily broke the old tour record of 14, set in 1991.
 
From Jerry Kelly winning the first full-field event to Luke Donald winning the last, here is a brief look at the first nine this season. Tomorrow we'll make the turn and look at the second nine.
 

Jerry Kelly
 
The 36-year-old Wisconsin won his first PGA Tour event in his 200th career start. He birdied the par-5 18th to defeat John Cook by a single shot in the Sony Hawaii Open. Kelly added his second title in July at the Advil Western Open, and ended the season sixth on the money list with nearly $3 million ' roughly what he made the last four years combined.
 

Matt Gogel
 
Gogel earned the most redemptive victory of the season when he captured the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He was the helpless victim to Tiger Woods seven-shot comeback in 2000. He then took a three-stroke lead into the weekend in 2001, only to shoot 81 on Saturday. This time, he birdied the 72nd hole from 45 feet, while Pat Perez self-destructed with a triple-bogey-8.
 
That was easily the highlight of Gogels season. He recorded only a pair of top-10 finishes over his final 21 starts. The $720,000 he collected at Pebble comprised 66 percent of his yearly intake.
 

Len Mattiace
 
He was best known as the man who lost the 1998 Players Championship when he put two in the water on 17 that Sunday; that was until this years Nissan Open. It took over seven years and 220 events for Mattiace to get win No. 1, but it only took 13 more starts to get win No. 2. Mattiaces FedEx St. Jude victory was part of a career-best year in which he earned over $2 million, and finished for the first time, at 18th, inside the top 60 on the money list.
 

Kevin Sutherland
 
It started with a come-from-behind, 20-hole upset over David Duval. It ended with a 1-up win over Scott McCarron, and a $1 million paycheck. Sutherland defeated Duval, Paul McGinley, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Brad Faxon and McCarron to win the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Sutherland was seeded 62nd among the 64 participants. It was his first victory since joining the tour in 1996. He notched only one more top-10 over the remainder of the season, however, earning just over half of what he made that one week at La Costa.
 

Ian Leggatt
 
The same week that Sutherland danced in the debutante's ball, so too did Ian Leggatt. The now 37-year-old Canadian won the Touchstone Energy Tucson Open, which was played simultaneously to the Match Play Championship.
 
Leggatt recorded sparse results the remainder of the year, with five top-20s, five missed cuts, and two withdrawals. He finished the year 47th on the money list.
 

Matt Kuchar
 
The 1997 U.S. Amateur champion won the Honda Classic by combining a four-hole birdie stretch on the back nine Sunday with a handful of difficult par saves. The victory was rewarding in more ways than the $630,000 check. Kuchar silenced critics who said he made a career mistake by not turning professional after his early amateur success.
 
After earning his 2002 card through sponsor's exemptions, Kuchar made over $1.2 million this year to finish 49th in the cash department.
 

Craig Perks
 
Chip-in eagle at 16; 25-foot birdie at 17; chip-in par save at 18; thats the way Perks concluded his remarkable victory in The Players Championship. The New Zealander, ranked 203rd in the world at the start of the week, won in his first appearance in the tours most important non-major event. He made $1,080,000 for his maiden triumph, but missed 10 of his final 19 cuts to miss The Tour Championship, and end the season 34th in earnings.
 

K.J. Choi
 
Choi became the first Korean-born player to win a PGA Tour event by cruising to a four-stroke victory in the Compaq Classic of New Orleans. To prove that wasnt a fluke, he also won the Tampa Bay Classic. Choi earned over $2 million in just his third season on tour, finishing 17th on the money list.
 

Chris Smith
 
Smith finally secured a spot in the big leagues after bouncing back and forth for the past seven years between the primary circuit and the developmental tour. He won the Buick Classic to garner a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. He finished the year with $1.36 million, nearly doubling his career tour earnings.