Jim Herman, a Donald Trump protege and an obscure former club pro, withstood challenges from some of the best players in the world to win the Shell Houston Open on Sunday.
Herman, 38 and playing his fifth season on the PGA Tour, shot a four-under par 68 in the final round at the Golf Club of Houston that included a back nine of three-under par 33 to defeat Henrik Stenson, No. 7 in the World Ranking, by a shot.
The victory earned him an invitation to the Masters this week.
“Never thought it was possible,” Herman said through tears.
Herman had been working as an assistant pro at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, when Trump encouraged him to pursue a PGA Tour career. “I’ve played with tour players. You’re good enough,” Trump told him.
He had proved that already, but did so emphatically with this victory, his first. He was tied with Stenson before holing a 40-foot pitch shot for birdie on the par-3 16th hole, made a routine par on 17 and another routine par on an exceedingly difficult par-4 18th.
“We had a good game plan,” he said. “Sorry for the tears. I’m pretty happy. We did a good job of keeping our game plan. We did a lot of 3-woods. I’m sure everyone was wondering about that. We wanted to give ourselves as many birdie chances as we could and keep it low stress.”
Stenson was not the only elite player to challenge Herman, who took a share of the lead into the final round with Jamie Lovemark. Dustin Johnson, ranked ninth, made five birdies on the back nine, but was undone by a double-bogey on the 11th hole. Johnson finished third, two shots back.
Rickie Fowler, ranked fifth, made an early run, but unraveled on the back nine and tied for 10th. And Jordan Spieth, second in the world, birdied five of his first seven holes to get within one shot of the lead, but played the final 10 holes in three over and finished tied for 13th.