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Crazy cart-path bounce helps journeyman capture APGA title at Torrey Pines

January 30, 2022

Patrick Newcomb won the APGA Farmers Insurance Invitational with a one-under total at Torrey Pines. (Tod Leonard)

SAN DIEGO — Add one more quirky circumstance to the lore of the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines South Course: the cart-path bounce.

Tied for the lead with Tim O’Neal as they stood on the 18th tee on Sunday in the APGA’s Farmers Insurance Invitational, Patrick Newcomb hit his worst drive of the day, way right of the fairway. But his ball hit the cart path and caromed forward for what Newcomb estimated to be another 40 yards. He’d have had no shot at hitting the par 5’s green in two otherwise, but was able to make the gutsy decision to go for it with his 3-wood from 254 yards.

“I drew a great lie,” Newcomb said. “It was a great break, honestly. You always hope for something good to happen down the stretch. I hit such a poor shot, but it went up into a good spot where I could get a clean 3-wood on it. We were just, like, we don’t want to play anymore holes.”

Facing fading light in the late afternoon, just as the PGA Tour players had in Luke List’s one-hole playoff win over Will Zalatoris on Saturday in the Farmers Insurance Open, Newcomb hit a “perfect” approach that sailed over the pond fronting the green and into the left bunker. O’Neal hit a beautiful third-shot approach to 10 feet below the hole—think Zalatoris’ putt to win in regulation on Saturday—and looked like he could be the champion.

But Newcomb pulled off an impressive up-and-down, making a birdie from 12 feet above the hole, and when O’Neal’s putt from lipped out, the 31-year-old Newcomb earned a one-shot victory with a one-under 143 total over 36 holes. He shot a three-over 75 in his first-ever round on Torrey South after recording the day’s best score of four-under 68 on Saturday on his maiden tour of Torrey North. O’Neal, 49 and an APGA regular since its inception, shot the day’s best score of one-over 73 in his first experience on the South.

“I've always struggled on Poa annua greens anyway,” O’Neal said. “No excuse for that one [the last putt]. But, yeah, first time playing the golf course, playing it blind, so that was a task right there. All in all, considering playing it blind, I think I did all right.”

Newcomb has played on all of the PGA Tour’s developmental circuits and has partial Korn Ferry Tour status this season after tying for 11th in the KFT Qualifying Tournament. He captured the final event on PGA Tour Latinoamerica in ’21, and this was his first victory on the APGA after posting a handful of top-10s last year.

“Winning is winning,” Newcomb said. “I’ve preached that. Winning a mini-tour event, a weekend tournament at your club, for some cash … winning is winning. It boosts your confidence. I didn’t putt as well as I normally do today, but I held it in there and to get it done means a lot.”

In a historic week for the 11-year-old Advocates Pro Golf Association, Sunday’s round was the first to be shown on national television via Golf Channel. Eighteen players were vying for the tour’s largest purse, including the $30,000 first-place check. That is big, potentially life-changing money for players at this level, and it was no different for Newcomb, a Kentucky native and Murray State alum who said this check probably matched the largest in his career. Last year he was sixth on the money list on PGA Tour Latinoamerica with a win and four top-10s, and he earned just over $52,000.

“The purse [for the Farmers Invitational] was fantastic,” Newcomb said. “When I saw it, I thought there was no way we were playing for that kind of money. I’m super excited. Being from the Korn Ferry Tour … I feel like people at home, they don’t realize it’s not as much of a luxury as people make it out to be. We have to work hard for a paycheck.”

The APGA is a tour that was founded to give minorities more opportunities to play professional golf, but it has not closed the door on anyone either. Tour officials estimate that about 15 percent of the competitors are white, and Newcomb is one of those golfers. He qualified for the Farmers Invitational by finishing fourth on last year’s APGA money list, having started to play the tour in 2021 because it offered more events than other circuits during the pandemic.

“They’ve been great, open arms,” Newcomb said. “They had no issues with me coming out and playing. It's been a fantastic atmosphere. What they're doing is great for guys to grow their game and don't have the money to. You know, this last year I didn't really have the money to do it, so it's been fantastic.”

O’Neal, who earned $17,000 for second place, said this year’s event was another step forward for the APGA.

"It's good for the guys to get a chance to play a PGA Tour event and see tour conditions and kind of see what it's all about," he said. "Good or bad, where you need to get. For a lot of guys, playing a course like this, you see how you stack up and things you have to work on to get better.”