Jason Gore becoming a fan favourite
Five months after considering quitting the game, American Jason Gore is living out his own Cinderella story.
The chunky 31-year-old from Valencia, California gained promotion to the lucrative PGA Tour barely a month ago after three consecutive wins on the minor league of the U.S. Nationwide Tour.
On Sunday, he earned his maiden PGA Tour title with a one-shot victory over Paraguay's Carlos Franco at the 84 Lumber Classic in Farmington, Pennsylvania.
The winner's cheque for $792,000, which almost doubled his PGA Tour career earnings, will go a long way towards resolving some of the financial problems he has experienced this year.
He also gains a two-year PGA Tour exemption, which he hopes can be the launch-pad for even better things to come.
"It's been all so overwhelming, and it really hasn't sunk in yet," fan favourite Gore told reporters after carding a two-under-par 70 at the Mystic Rock Golf Course. "I guess since June this hasn't sunk in yet.
"It's pretty incredible now to be a PGA Tour winner. Wow, that's cool just talking about it.
"I'm going to cherish this for a long, long time," added the 235-lbs Californian, who rocketed 230 places to a career-high 88th in the world rankings with his breakthrough win.
In June, the unheralded Gore grabbed the attention of American golf fans when he vaulted into contention for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst with a second-round 67.
Although he spiralled down the leaderboard with a closing 14-over-par 84, he teed off in the final pair with twice champion Retief Goosen and made a lasting impression all week as one of the most popular players in the field.
Rekindling images of a young John Daly, he relished every moment of his sudden fame, working his way through the crowds, shaking hands and signing autographs for as many people as possible.
"This game has done so much for me, both good and bad," Gore said, having become the second player after Paul Stankowski, in 1996, to win on the Nationwide and PGA Tours in the same year.
"It's the greatest game ever. It's a large part of my life and I'm just one of those weird guys that loves to play golf.
"Even when I'm at home, I still go play with the boys on Friday, the normal Friday skins game.
"I just love to compete. Hopefully I've helped a couple of people realise that this is such a great game."
Although the future now looks very bright for Gore, he will not forget the difficult times, particularly the low point of his year in May when he came close to quitting the game.
"I was going to the store and wondering if I was going to be able to get formula (liquid food) for my child, wondering if I was going to be able to afford it and wondering if I was going to make a house payment," he recalled.
"And now look. They just handed me a check for $792,000, and that thing (the trophy), too. I think he'll be eating this weekend," he added, referring to his baby boy Jaxon William.
"To know that just five, six months ago I was thinking about hanging it up, and instead of really hanging up the clubs, I get to hang up this nice (winner's) red jacket in the closet."
Gore, who played in the 84 Lumber Classic on a sponsor's invitation, is determined to make the most of his two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
"Hopefully, you take this as a stepping stone," he said. "I think that's what I'm going to try to do, put it in the pocket and keep on going."
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