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Making himself right at home on the course at Chattahoochee Country Club, Brandon Brown set a sizzling pace, then cruised to his first victory of the season.
The Shelbyville professional golfer built a 7-shot lead – thanks in large part to a course-record tying 62 in the first round - in the first two days, then cruised to the win in the NGA Pro Tour’s Milton Martin Honda Classic this past weekend in Gainesville, Ga.
The victory was his eighth – which ranks third all-time – on the NGA Tour, and his first this season in three events.
Brown, who missed the NGA’s first eight tournaments of the year after having offseason eye surgery, tied for fifth in the Bluegrass Open, which was played on his home course at Shelbyville Country Club on Memorial Day weekend, then tied for third in the Three Ridges Golf Club Classic, which concluded May 31 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Brown, the 2012 NGA Tour Player of the Year and a two-time season money leader, went wire-to-wire, carded a four-day total of 268 (62-65-70-71) in winning the tournament by three shots. He previously won the Milton Martin in 2011.
“This is definitely a nice place to come to, and I like the way this course sets up for me,” Brown, who collected a check for $10,000 with the victory, told AccessNorthGa.com. “Plus Gainesville reminds me of my hometown, and it kind of feels like home.”
Playing as if he was at Shelbyville Country Club, Brown began the tournament with a course-record-tying 10-under-par 62 (32-30) Thursday. That round included two eagles, seven birdies, eight pars and one bogey.
He followed that up with a second-round 65 (35-30). Although Brown began Friday with a bogey on the par-4 first hole he rebounded with a birdie on the second, and followed that up with another on the fifth, before blistering the back nine again with another round of 6-under.
He birdied Nos. 10-13 before bogeying the par-3 14th for the second consecutive day. Brown bounced back in fine fashion, though, with birdies on No. 15, 17 and 18 to drop to 17-under-par and give himself a 7-shot lead heading into the weekend.
In Saturday’s third round, Brown fired a 2-under 70 going 36-34. He birdied the par-5 fourth before bogeying the par-3 eighth in his even-par front nine. Brown didn’t obliterate the back nine, as he did the first two rounds, but he did birdie Nos. 10, 11 and 14. A bogey on the par-4 16th was the only hiccup on the back for Brown, who still had a comfortable 4-shot lead heading into Sunday.
He shot a final-round 71 (35-36).
“I was playing a little more protective today and it showed,” he said afterward.
He began his fourth round with a birdie on No. 1, but bogeyed the par-4 second. He bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 fourth, then carded nine consecutive pars before bogeying No. 14 for the third time in four days, dropping his lead to two strokes.
“I saw the leaderboard going on to 10 today and I still had a pretty good lead, but I hit some errant shots after that,” Brown said. “I just started thinking too far ahead.”
Brown rebounded from the bogey on 14 with back-to-back pars before a birdie on No. 17.
“I hit two good shots on seventeen and was able to two-putt for birdie,” Brown said of the hole he previously eagled in the first round and birdied in the second round.
He finished out his round with a par-4 on the 18th.
“It felt great, and this is a big step for me,” said Brown, who finished his four rounds with two eagles, 23 birdies, 40 pars and seven bogeys.
With the victory Brown vaulted up the NGA’s money list to 11th. He now has won $15,250.
More importantly, he now has the inside track to earning the NGA Tour’s exemption into the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, which will take place July 10-13 at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Utah. The highest finisher in the Milton Martin Classic and the Cutter Creek Classic, which will take place June 16-22 at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Snow Hill, N.C., will gain that exemption.
“If I can play well there I can get an exemption to the Web.com Tour and hopefully play well there and start looking toward the PGA,” Brown said.
After Sunday, though, Brown was looking forward to returning to Shelbyville.
“It’s nice to take this back with me,” he said.