Rally lifts ex-Spartan

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MCCORMICK, S.C. --- Matthew Harmon stuck to his routine Sunday.

The former Michigan State golfer continued his weeklong habit of eating oatmeal in the morning. Then, before leaving the home of Joe and Nancy Gaffney, he would perform his yoga exercises.

"He's real laid back," Nancy Gaffney said. "He's real quiet and focused."

In Sunday's final round of the Savannah Lakes Village Classic, Harmon continued his routine of hitting fairways and greens. He also stuck to his mental preparation.

"Down the stretch, he told me he was just going to relax and try to have fun," said Harmon's caddy and former Spartans teammate, Ryan Brehm.

Harmon birdied two of the final four holes to come back for a one-shot win at the NGA/Hooters Tour event at Monticello Golf Club.

With his 3-under-par 69, Harmon finished at 16-under 272. The Grand Rapids, Mich., resident edged out Matthew Anderson (66), David Skinns (67) and Russell Knox (69).

Michael Welch shot 68 to finish fifth, two shots back.

Harmon, 24, collected his second career NGA/Hooters Tour win and a check for $33,566. In two previous tour events this season, he posted a pair of top-40 finishes. He missed the cut last week in the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic.

During practice rounds this week, Harmon worked hard on his putting, trying to get a consistent speed.

"Last week, I couldn't tap it in," he said.

Last year, Harmon said, he learned a lesson from this event. He shot 66-76 and missed the cut.

"It was great learning experience," he said. "I was extremely immature last year. I'm getting better."

Everything fell into place this year. Harmon stayed with the Gaffneys, who have three daughters who graduated from Michigan State. They flew a green Spartans flag in the backyard of their house facing the No. 9 green.

"This was like a homecoming," he said.

Standing on the tee box at No. 18, Harmon knew the situation: He needed par for victory. He striped a drive down the middle before knocking an 8-iron from 175 yards to 20 feet. He two-putted for par.

"He played high percentage golf," Brehm said. "And it paid off for him."

Skinns, an Atlanta resident and a three-time winner in 2008, opened with four birdies and an eagle at the par-4 fifth hole for a front-nine 30. He led at 16-under-par until he reached the short par-4 17th.

Skinns failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker. The costly bogey dropped him back, allowing Harmon to pull off his comeback.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com


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