Buffeting winds and sideways rain pelted Brice Garnett as he walked up the 18th hole at Corales Golf Club, but they couldn’t wipe the grin off the 34-year-old’s face. Of course, it helps that the former Division II All-American at Missouri Western State had a five-stroke lead on a week where he seemingly could do no wrong.
A closing bogey cut his winning margin to four strokes, but still left Garnett with his first PGA Tour title in the inaugural Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. Garnett posted a two-under 70 on Sunday for an 18-under 270 total to grab his maiden win in his 88th tour start.
“It was a hard day, but man it was a lot of fun to do this,” said Garnett, who had only once ever led after any round on the PGA Tour event (round 2 of the 2014 tour stop at Colonial, where he finished T-30). “I was just excited for the day. I knew it was going to be tough.”
Garnett played three seasons on the PGA Tour from 2013 to 2016, only to lose his card and return to the Web.com Tour in 2017. But he won twice there last year, and finished first on the regular-season money list to earn his way back to the PGA Tour.
In 12 PGA Tour events played so far in 2017-’18 season, Garnett had made the cut eight times but finishing no better than his T-17 at the Safeway Open last October. His aggregate score for his first 40 rounds of the season was 16 under par, compared to the 18 under he shot over four days in the Dominican.
Garnett started fast at Corales with an opening-round 63—a career-low score on the PGA Tour—and took a six strokes through 36 holes after a Friday 68. A third-round 69 saw his advantage shrink to two strokes, but Garnett didn’t show any final-round nerves when he made three birdies over the first four holes.
“I just wanted to make nine pars on the back,” Garnett said, which he essentially did with a birdie on the 12th and the bogey on the home hole.
Since the tournament was played opposite the WGC-Dell Match Play, Garnett’s victory does not earn him a spot into the Masters in two weeks. But it does get him into the Sentry Tournament of Champions next January and secures his tour card through 2020, as well as earning him spots in the Players Championship and the PGA Championship.