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Runge Comes From Behind to Take Panama Open

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CORONADO, Panama - Buy.Com Tour veteran Steve Runge shot a front-nine 31 on Sunday and cruised to a two-shot victory over third-round leader Jonathan Byrd in the $200,000 Panama Open Panasonic, the final event of the 2000 Canadian Tour season.
 
Runge, the 2000 Buy.Com Richmond Open champion, began the final round three behind Byrd, who had led since Thursday. And while Byrd's putting was faltering in the Panamanian wind and heat on Sunday, Runge eagled the par-5 fifth hole and then made birdie putts of 10 feet or less on 6, 8 and 9. He led by four at the turn and never led by less than four until the final hole.
 
Runge's 5-under 67 got him to 16-under-par 272 for 72 holes, matching Texan Steve Haskins' winning score from one year ago. The Delray Beach, FL, native, who played at Ohio State University, earned $36,000 for the victory. Byrd, who finished birdie-birdie, was 14-under for 72 holes and pocketed $20,000.
 
Three-year Canadian Tour veteran Chad Wright broke the course record with a 10-under 62 to finish alone in third place. Former PGA Tour player Bob Friend was alone in fourth one shot back of Wright and five behind Runge.
 
'This is the second biggest win of my life, right behind the win last year in Richmond,' said Runge, who admitted to not having played a competitive round of golf in 2001 prior to arriving at the 6,983-yard Coronado Beach Resort Course last Monday evening.
 
'This is a great field, and anytime you win it's a wonderful feeling. I was really in a groove today, especially on the front nine. I thought I had a chance early on to go out and shoot a low number and have a chance to win the golf tournament.'
 
For Byrd, a former All-American at Clemson University, the final round was a disappointing finish to what had been a promising first three days.
 
Byrd had just three bogeys through 54 holes, but he matched that number on Sunday's front nine alone. He hit tee shots out of bounds on 3 and 13 and missed three putts from inside four feet.
 
'It was a great week, despite the way that it ended,' Byrd said. 'I just did not play well today, and I still finished just two shots out of the lead. Hopefully I will learn from this experience and play better the next time I have a chance to win.'