After overcoming tragedy and on-course struggles, Nate Lashley wins Rocket Mortgage Classic

June 30, 2019
Nate Lashley hits a shot during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Nate Lashley was the next alternate in line to get a spot in last week’s Travelers Championship, but his name was never called.

He had to wait again this week. He failed to Monday qualify for the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club but slowly moved up the alternate list. On Wednesday he found out he was in. Four days later, the 36-year-old with one previous top 10 in 32 career PGA Tour starts dominated the field and won by six, earned a check for $1.314 million and received a slew of life-changing Tour exemptions.

It was a good week for someone who was flipping houses a few years ago and had to overcome a horrific tragedy 15 years earlier.

“Just really emotional right now,” Lashley said on Sunday night, fighting back tears. “Truly thankful I got into the golf tournament. Winning on the PGA Tour was always a dream and getting that done today was a great accomplishment.”

Lashley cruised all week. He shot 63 on Thursday and Saturday and began Sunday with a six-shot lead. He led by that margin at the turn of his final round and completed a stress-free back nine to shoot a two-under 70 and finish 25 under overall. Doc Redman was second at 19 under.

After missing out on Monday qualifying, Lashley found out on Tuesday he was probably going to get in, and it was official on Wednesday morning when David Berganio withdrew.

“I just felt like I really needed to be in the tournament because I was playing really well,” he said. “Being first alternate’s no fun, to be out of the tournament by just one spot. So realistically I’m just real thankful to get in this week and glad I took advantage of it.”

Lashley spent several years bouncing around on the lesser Tours prior to gaining Tour status at the end of last year, but his days trying to find his way on the Latinoamerica, Mackenzie and Korn Ferry tours hardly compare to what he had to overcome off the course as a college student. As a junior at Arizona his dad, mom and girlfriend were watching him play in a 2004 NCAA West Regional in Oregon. Their return flight crashed and all three died.

“It was just shock,” Lashley told ESPN in 2017. “Shock and disbelief. It was a really tough time, especially that week with the funerals and the memorial service. I was just kind of out of it.”

Lashley, who said golf was a way “to get away from it all” after that tragic day, struggled to find his way in the pro game, at least one time hanging up his clubs for good.

“I thought I was pretty much done with golf,” he said. “I always felt like I had the talent and ability to play out here and it was just a matter of getting out here and getting comfortable. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

Not ready to give up yet, Lashley won three times on the Latinoamerica Tour in 2016, won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017 and got 18 starts on the PGA Tour last year. He earned some status for this year, but he’s now got his card locked up for two more years, a Masters invite and more after his breakthrough in Detroit.

“I couldn’t be more happy right now,” Lashley said.