Lashley overcomes tragedy, rising star overcomes rat poisoning and questionable drug ban for breakthrough, and a former prodigy's ominous future: What you missed
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social-media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of July 1.
The feel-good story of the season
Nate Lashley started the week falling short in a Monday qualifier. He ended it on a slightly higher note.
Lashley, a man who's received more than his share of haymakers from life, entered the field at the Rocket Mortgage Classic as the third alternate and made the most of the opportunity, winning at Detroit Golf Club by six shots.
“It’s a career-changing event, getting a win out here,” Lashley said. “You really can’t put into words how much this means. It’s just huge for my career.”
The issue was never in doubt on Sunday. A pair of 63s with a second-round 67 gave Lashley a six-shot lead heading into the final round. An even-par front nine—coupled with challengers J.T. Poston and Cameron Tringale going sideways—put the tournament to bed early. But Sunday was not so much about the competition as it was a celebration of Lashley's struggle.
The 36-year-old tragically lost his parents and college girlfriend in a plane crash in 2004. Through the sorrow, he labored on the mini-tours for years before quitting the game briefly for a more stable gig in real estate.
“It definitely crosses your mind,” Lashley said of the accident. “At some points it’s not easy, but it goes through your mind and it’s something that’s always going to be there for me."
But Lashley returned to golf, and eventually earned a PGA Tour card for the first time in 2017 at 34. His 2018 campaign, however, was cut short by a knee injury. Lashley began this year on a minor medical extension, but failed to earn back his card, spending the bulk of this season playing from 126-150 priority ranking.
The former Arizona Wildcat can kiss that goodbye, as a future of uncertainty is replaced by a two-year tour exemption and invites to the 2019 Open Championship and 2020 Masters and PGA Championship. Given the trials he had to endure to reach this finish line, Lashley's triumph is the feel-good story of the season.
"I’ve been through a lot. It took a lot of years for me to get over my parents’ death, for sure. It was mentally holding me back for a long time," Lashley said. "I was getting a little emotional even walking up 18, even before I hit my second shot, thinking about my parents. Because without them, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now."
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U.S. Amateur champ gets temporary status
Lashley wasn't the only player with Monday-qualifier ties to make good in Michigan.
Doc Redman, the 2017 U.S. Amateur champ, earned a spot in the Rocket Mortgage Classic by medaling with a 62 at the Orchards Golf Club earlier in the week. The 21-year-old, who has played on four different circuits this year and made just one previous PGA Tour start in 2019, cashed in on the chance, stringing together a 68 and three 67s to finish runner-up in Detroit. He earned a $788,400 paycheck as well as special temporary membership on the PGA Tour for the rest of this season.
“It’s awesome," Redman said. "It went by really quick. I was just trying to play well every day, and I did that. It's awesome playing out here, and I'm glad I get the opportunity to do that."
Redman can pick up a 2019-'20 tour card if he earns as many or more points as Harris English, No. 125 in the 2017-'18 season FedEx Cup standings, did last season. Redman currently has 344 points; for context, English had 377. Even if he doesn't earn any more points this year, Redman has enough to get into the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, giving him some status going forward in 2020.
With his finish, Redman also earned a spot in next week's inaugural 3M Open, a tournament he was hoping to play via another Monday qualifier. More importantly, Redman also gets into the Open Championship at Royal Portrush by virtue of playing well in one of the Open's Qualifying Series events.
"It hasn't sunk in," said Redman, who forfeited a chance to play in the 2018 Open via his U.S. Amateur win by turning pro, "but in the next few hours it definitely will, and it's a great feeling.”
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Bezuidenhout overcomes rat poisoning, drug ban for Euro win
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is a name foreign to most American fans. That won't be the case for long.
The 25-year-old South African lapped the field at Valderrama, winning the Andalucia Masters in Spain by six shots over Jon Rahm and five others. The victory wasn't out of left field; the 2017 Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year had four top-10s in his last eight European Tour starts. Yet it was a capstone to a journey that has been far from easy.
Earlier this year Bezuidenhout shared his brush with death as a child and the lifelong complications that resulted from the incident.
"When I was a baby while playing with friends in the street, I drank rat poison in a freak accident," Bezuidenhout wrote for the European Tour's website. "I was 2½ years old, and I was playing outside when I picked up a random Coke bottle. I took a drink of it thinking it was indeed Coke, however, it actually contained rat poison. It was a moment that would change my life forever."
Bezuidenhout said he almost died from the poisoning. At the hospital, doctors had to pump his stomach, but the poison had spread throughout his nervous system.
"One of the long-term effects of this led to me having a stutter," Bezuidenhout said. "That stutter would eventually lead me to develop a severe case of anxiety."
Living an introverted lifestyle, Bezuidenhout struggled with depression, which has only improved in the past four to five years. Worse, the medication Bezuidenhout was taking to control his anxiety inadvertently triggered a failed drug test during the 2014 British Amateur at Royal Portrush, one that led to a suspension and kept him from playing for his country in the biennial World Amateur Team Championship.
But the stigma that came with the suspension soon dissipated, and now he'll get redemption at Portrush as the win grants an Open exemption, his first start in a major.
"It’s amazing," Bezuidenhout said. "It’s been a dream since I started playing golf to play in a major championship and to play the Open, which is my favorite major, just makes it even more special."
Wie out for season
Michelle Wie was in tears at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship two weeks ago following an opening 84, acknowledging the prospect of an uncertain golf future. Injuries had taken their toll—physically, emotionally and mentally—and the former prodigy appeared to accept her fate.
"I'm not entirely sure how much more I have left in me, so even on the bad days I'm just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it's tough," Wie said.
While Wie will likely return at some point to the LPGA Tour, it won't be in 2019. The 29-year-old announced on Friday she is shutting all golf-related activities down for the season.
"After doing everything I could to play this year, I have made the decision to take the rest of the year off from competitive golf," Wie said in a statement. "My team and I believe that this will give me the best chance to finally get healthy. I can’t thank you all enough for all the love and support. Means the world to me."
Wie underwent surgery at the end of 2018 to treat an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment in her right hand. Unfortunately, the injury returned early this season. In February, after playing in the Honda LPGA Thailand (where she finished T-23), Wie withdrew in the middle of the first round at the HSBC Women's World Championship, where she was the defending champ. Wie hoped to play again at the Kia Classic in March, but also withdrew from that event. Before making a forgettable return at Hazeltine, she missed the cut at the ANA Inspiration and the LOTTE Championship in April.
Stricker strikes gold in South Bend
Steve Stricker is a Big Ten man. He was an All-American at the University of Illinois and calls Madison, Wis., his home. But we're guessing Stricker has made some room for the Fightin' Irish in his heart after striking gold in South Bend.
Making his U.S. Senior Open debut, Stricker completed a wire-to-wire victory with a one-under 69 at Notre Dame's Warren Course on Sunday, beating Jerry Kelly and David Toms by six.
“It was a challenge, especially today,” Stricker said. “When you come out with a six-shot lead you have everything to lose and really nothing to gain. And I played that way today. I played very cautiously trying not to make mistakes. This game is hard to play that way.”
Named the 2020 Ryder Cup captain in January, the 52-year-old knew that one of the marks against him was his major-less record. Though they're not on the same level, it's worth noting this is Stricker's second senior major this year following his triumph at May's Regions Tradition.
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