AIKEN — Three weeks ago, Gordon Strother lay in a hospital bed after one of the strangest withdrawals from a golf tournament.
On Saturday, Strother proved he was fully recovered from the freak occurrence.
With a closing birdie binge, the St. Simons Island, Ga., resident finished with 6-under-par 66 on the Jones Course to win The Championship at Woodside Plantation by three shots.
Strother collected $18,000 for his first eGolf tournament win – his best previous finish in 34 career starts was a tie for 21st place. He opened with a course-record 61 and followed with rounds of 70-71 to finish at 20-under-par, three shots clear of Chesson Hadley.
“I think if you can win out here, you can play on the big tour,” Strother said. “That’s everybody’s goal out here. To win, it just gives me a lot of confidence.”
The 26-year-old Strother, a former Auburn golfer, was plodding along through the year when he opened with 67 in an eGolf event July 11 in Salisbury, N.C. After the round, he went to a local restaurant and had roast beef. After a short while, a piece of meat got lodged in his esophagus. He could breathe, but he couldn’t swallow water – the Heimlich maneuver wouldn’t have worked, he said. After an emergency room visit, Strother had his esophagus stretched to alleviate the problem. With his multiple-day stay in the hospital, Strother’s best round of the year was all for naught with his withdrawal from the tournament.
“A lot of weird stuff happens in this game,” he said.
Despite going low in the first round at Woodside, Strother got passed by Brian Duncan. A former Clemson golfer, Duncan posted rounds of 67-66-66 and led Strother and Hadley by two entering the final nine.
“I wasn’t sure exactly where I stood,” Strother said. “I knew I just needed to keep hitting good shots.”
Duncan and Strother were tied entering the pivotal par-5 14th, where Strother two-putted from 20-feet for birdie while Duncan bogeyed the hole. Strother followed with a 4-iron to three feet for birdie at No. 15. He then rolled in a 30-foot downhill birdie putt at No. 16.
While Duncan shot 4-over on the back nine en route to 75, Strother closed with birdies on four of the final five holes, including a 25-footer at the last, for the victory.
“This win gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I’m just going to enjoy it and keep doing what I’m doing and try to play well.”