The 2001 Canadian Rookie of the Year, buoyed by a fast start out of the chute, carded a 2-under 69 at Barefoot Resorts Pete Dye course for a 72-hole total of 5-under 279 and a three-shot win over Australias Scott Hend. Jason Enloe, Michael Kirk and Mayson Petty wound up tied for third at 1-under 283. Zoltan Veress finished even-par, good enough for a tie for sixth.
Just five players wound up under par for the event, with strong winds swirling throughout the challenging 7257-yard layout all week.
Sunday marked the second time in as many weeks that a Canadian captured a Candian Tour event. Rob McMillan of Winnipeg won the Barefoot Classic last week at the neighboring Greg Norman course. The feat ended a 66-event drought for back-to-back Canadian winners dating back to 1997 when Rick Todd and Mike Weir took top honors at the Payless Open and B.C. Tel Pacific Open, respectively.
Gillespie, who started the day one shot behind Hend, took over the lead for good with a birdie and a bogey by Hend on the 344-yard, par-4 opening hole. He then opened a four-shot cushion with birdies on the fourth and fifth. Gillespie fired a 3-under 32 on his front nine and was up by three at the turn. Things got tense when Gillespie double-bogeyed the par-4 10th, allowing Hend to climb to within one. But Gillespie put an end to the suspense when he canned a clutch 25-foot birdie putt from off the green on the 13th while Hend struggled to a bogey.
I told my caddie This is it, if I can make this (on the 13th) then its over, said Gillespie, who collected $24,000 for the win, moving into fourth spot in the Order of Merit standings. I was swinging the club so well today. Even when I made the double on 10, I didnt let it bother me. I was so comfortable in that situation.
In his rookie season a year ago, Gillespie kicked off his Canadian Tour career in fine style with a second-place finish at the season-opening Myrtle Beach Open, but that would be the high point in an otherwise frustrating campaign. Another runner-up showing at last months Scottsdale Swing at Eagle Mountain had Gillespies confidence soaring, and he was able to build on that during Sundays final round.
It feels great, it is such a relief to finally get that first one over with, even though Ill probably get in trouble for that (double bogey), he laughed. But winning is something Ive thought about for a long time. To make it two in a row for Canada makes it extra-special- we have a lot of good Canadian players, and it is starting to show.
Hend, whose best previous finish on the Canadian Tour was a tie for third at last years South Carolina Challenge, tipped his hat to Gillespie but felt he could have crept closer had he made some putts early on.
Derek played solid and he did what he had to do over the last few holes. This will be good for him. The name of the game is to get the ball in the hole. If you make putts, you win. I didnt win.
Full-field scores from the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship