SAN ANTONIO (AP) – First-year PGA pro Brendan Steele stayed steady enough to make his one-stroke, final-round lead hold up and win the Texas Open.
It wasn’t until it was time to celebrate that the rookie mistakes began.
The 28-year-old Californian cut his finger on the glass-and-stone trophy as he posed with it for pictures. Then he struggled to pull on the boots that came as part of the tournament prize. “Do I get a horse too?” he quipped.
“I’ve never had boots before,” Steele told reporters later, by way of rather sheepish explanation. “Those are my first.”
His 1-under 71 in Sunday’s relentless wind moved him to an 8-under 270 for the tournament, one shot better than fellow PGA Tour first-year player Kevin Chappell, and Charley Hoffman.
The leader by a stroke heading into the final round, Steele largely stayed out of trouble throughout the day.
“I was a lot more calm today,” he said. “When you’ve got the one-shot lead it’s not even your tournament. There’s so many guys that could still win with a good round, without you even doing anything wrong, that I didn’t feel as much pressure.”
He gave a small fist pump, then thrust his arm downward and smiled broadly to celebrate his first Tour victory after holing out on 18.
“An out-rush of emotion there. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it,” Steele said. “You thought about it as a kid and in high school and everything, this putt is to win a PGA Tour event.”
The tournament featured the Tour’s highest scoring average, 73.665, this season and Steele’s 280 overall was the highest winning score at the Texas Open since the 1934 edition.
Steele birdied the par-5 second hole, dropping his approach from a bunker to within 10 feet of the pin, then bogeyed the par-4 No. 5, leaving a 12-foot putt from the fringe short. But he put his tee shot within three feet of the hole on par-3 No. 7 to move back to 8 under.
That’s where he finished. Steele, whose previous best was a tie for 17th at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in January, could have then padded his lead, but missed a couple of other makeable birdie putts late.
Instead, he settled for 12 straight pars and it was enough to hold off Chappell, who had two birdies on the front nine, then put his second shot to within seven feet on par-4 No. 10 to grab a share of the lead.
Chappell, 24, stayed tied with Steele through seven holes, but hit his 2nd shot on the par-4 17th well right of the hole and then couldn’t save par.
“I’ll be honest, I think I just fell asleep,” said Chappell, who led UCLA to an NCAA championship in 2008. “I felt the wind was dead into me … I should have known it was a little left to right.”
It was the first time since the 2006 Phoenix Open that two Tour rookies finished 1-2 at a tournament. Another rookie, Charl Schwartzel, won last week at the Masters, making this the first time rookies have won back-to-back on Tour since 2002.
Winds that were a factor all week, pushing drives into the woods and knocking down approach shots, continued to blow strong at 20 mph Sunday — with gusts exceeding 30 mph.
Tying Chappell for second was the 34-year-old Hoffman, who found the hole from the fairway 52 feet away for an eagle on the par-5 No. 8. He followed that with a birdie on 464-yard No. 9 — where Kevin Na had the worst par-4 hole in the PGA Tour record books during Thursday’s opening round, shooting a 16.
Hoffman just missed a 10-footer to save par on No. 14, but his birdie on 18 moved him back to 7 under for the tournament.
Brandt Snedeker, 30, had two birdies on the front nine but missed an 8-foot putt on the par-4 11th to slide back to 6 under for the tournament, good enough to finish alone in forth.
Cameron Tringale is in his second year on Tour but is 5 years younger than Steele at 23. He had three bogeys to offset a pair of birdies and finished tied for fifth at five under.
Also tied for fifth was Pat Perez (71) and Fredrik Jacobson (69), who finished second at the 2010 Texas Open.
Players in their 20s have won three of the last four PGA Tour events and four of the last six. A player in his 30s has not won since Rory Sabbatini at the Honda Classic, a span of seven events.
Steele had never led any round during his previous 11 starts on Tour. Still, the glare from at least moderate fame is not new to his family — Steele’s uncle Anthony Geary plays Luke on the ABC soap opera General Hospital.
“The guys who are household names now weren’t household names when they started,” he said. “You’ve got to make yourself a household name and you’ve got to start somewhere.”
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