Peter Lonard finally gains maiden victory
Australia's Peter Lonard showcased his survival skills during a rollercoaster final round at the Heritage Classic on Sunday, claiming a maiden PGA Tour win that he literally thought he would never see.
Having contracted Ross River Fever, a mosquito-borne disease that affects eyesight, Lonard was forced to give up full time tournament play in 1994 and take a job working as a club pro at Oatlands Golf Club in his native Sydney.
Over a decade of hard graft later, Lonard's determination was on full display at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina where he clawed his way to an untidy final round four-over 75 to hang on for a two-stroke victory.
"That happened probably almost 10, 11, 12 years ago, so it's taken me that long to actually win one," said Lonard, thinking back to when he was diagnosed with the debilitating virus.
"It's been a long road," he added.
"I was playing in Europe when I was 23, 24, hoping to emulate the (Greg) Normans and the (Ian) Baker-Finches and the guys that came ahead of me.
"I was hoping to play in Europe for a few years and then move over to America and take on the PGA Tour.
"The next thing I'm selling chocolate bars and sausage rolls in a pro shop.
"I think working for a living is overrated, so it's amazing how much you start practicing and training when you actually have to work.
"It's something you wonder if you'll ever get to, to win, and it's a great feeling."
For a while during Sunday's final round it appeared neither Lonard nor playing partner Darren Clarke were interested in claiming the $5.2 million event.
The closing 18 holes featured wild swings in momentum and fortune from start to finish, with Britain's Clarke launching his victory bid in blistering style with four birdies in his first five holes.
His opening surge put him four strokes clear of the Australian, who opened with bogeys on the first two holes.
However, just as quickly as the Northern Irishman began he suddenly lost his way on the tight fairways and small greens.
A dropped shot at the par-four sixth was the start of a dismal run over the final 13 holes, which Clarke covered in nine over par with three double-bogeys, four bogeys and a solitary birdie at the par-four 12th.
"I sort of think golf is a matter of survival," Lonard said.
"It's sort of nice for the top five to win $10 million and stuff, but if you're not winning $10 million, this game is one of survival.
"There's a fine line between making a lot of money out here and making nothing and having to get a job.
"Obviously I didn't win it the way I wanted to win it today, but at the end of the day, if you win, you win.
"That's the way I'm going -- that's what I'm going to take out of it."
Lonard will also take $936,000, a tartan blazer and a huge amount of satisfaction from the win having silence sceptics who said he could never win in the U.S..
"I can actually afford my house," Lonard added.
"It's the first step of what I've always wanted to do.
"You know, it's something I didn't think I was ever going to get to do 10 years ago."
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