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Geiberger wins his first PGA Tour title

Al Geiberger taught his son a few things: Be patient, don't get discouraged by a bad start and carry peanut butter sandwiches on the course for energy.

Except for wolfing down a banana on the back nine of the Canon Greater Hartford Open on today, Brent Geiberger followed his father's instructions precisely.

The result was his first PGA Tour title, leaving his father in tears during a Senior PGA Tour event in Park City, Utah.

"I was getting high-fives from everyone out there," Al Geiberger said. "I went down the fairway feeling like I had won the tournament."

Brent Geiberger won the GHO with a 3-under-par 67 to finish at 18-under 262. That beat the tournament mark of 266 set last year by Olin Browne, Stewart Cink and Larry Mize.

"It's pretty special," Brent Geiberger said. "I'm looking forward to calling my dad and talking with him about the whole experience."

Al Geiberger called his son on the eve of his first title, filling the tape on the answering machine.

"He said 'You know if you get down a little, don't worry, you've got a lot of holes left.' I can hear him in the back of my head saying a few things that gets me going and keeps me inspired out there," said Geiberger, who turned pro in 1993.

The Geibergers last year became the first father and son to play in the same PGA Championship.

"We had a lot of fun," Brent Geiberger said. "Being able to play a couple practice rounds with him, those things are really special to me."

He also became the first son of a tour winner to win a tournament since Guy Boros, the son of Julius Boros, won at Vancouver in 1996.

By the time Al Geiberger teed off this morning some 2,300 miles away, his son had the tournament all but sewn up.

The GHO tee times were moved up two hours and the field was grouped in threesomes starting on the No. 1 and No. 10 tees to finish ahead of severe thunderstorms predicted for late afternoon.

"I realized he was going to finish early, so I was a basket case. Before I teed off, he was at the turn with a five-shot lead. My mind was obviously not on my own game," Al Geiberger said.

Al Geiberger won 11 times in his PGA Tour career, including the 1966 PGA Championship, and was the first on the tour to shoot a 59. But his son's victory was a thrill like no other.

The elder Geiberger was updated on his son's progress throughout his round. His eyes started to well with tears as Brent drew the finish. Then, on the seventh tee at Park City, Al Geiberger learned his son had won. He cried.

"It was kind of neat that I was out playing while he was," he said. "So I was kind of living it through him."

For the past three years, this tournament has been won by first timers -- Cink, Browne and now the 31-year-old Geiberger.

Skip Kendall shot a 66 to finish three strokes back. Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia and Ted Tryba were four strokes behind.

Before today, Brent Geiberger's best finish was third at the Western Open four weeks ago. He shared an 11-under second-round lead at the GHO and was alone on top after three rounds, thanks to an ace on the back nine Saturday. He pulled away from the pack early today, making five birdies on the front nine. At the turn, he was six strokes ahead.

He would get just one more birdie, the par-3 No. 6. His only mistakes came in the final two holes when he double bogeyed the No. 17 water hole and hit out of two bunkers on No. 18, making bogey there.

"I know if you start getting conservative you might start backing up and I just tried to stay with the same game plan I had," he said. "I didn't look at the board until 16 or 17."

Lush fairways and little wind made for near perfect conditions at the TPC at River Highlands.

Tryba and Tim Herron tied the course record of 62 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The first-round average score of 69.5 was second this year only to the 68.7 in the opening round of the GTE Byron Nelson Classic.

Kendall, unlike Geiberger, kept his eye on the leaderboard.

"Every time I looked up, he made another birdie," Kendall said. "I knew ... unless something really drastic happened to him on 15 through 17, that we were playing for second - all of us."

The $450,000 first prize moves Geiberger into the top 20 of the earnings leaders with $980,000 in winnings.

"Golf is such a humbling game that you always get knocked down and try to give yourself as many opportunities as you can," he said. "I know I was getting closer and closer all the time. It's just nice to be able to have a little bit of a cushion in the end."

 

AP


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