Emotional scenes as Nate Lashley qualifies for British Open 15 years after parents and girlfriend died in plane crash
Nate Lashley has won a place at the Open Championship in two weeks' time courtesy of one of the PGA Tour's most emotional victories.
Fifteen years after his parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash after watching him play in a college tournament, the 36-year-old broke his duck in the big league, easing to a six-shot triumph in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Michigan.
It was a remarkable performance from the American who, as the first alternate, was the last man into the field when David Berganio withdrew before Thursday's first round.
Ranked No 353 in the world, Lashley could boast only one previous top-10 finish on tour before this $1.3 million (€1.15m) success.
What a story.— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) July 1, 2019
What a win for Nate Lashley on Sunday in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/iAlNjxy4oo
However, he left all the years of toiling on the game's mini-tours behind in emphatic style with a 25-under total to earn berths at both Royal Portrush and next year's Masters.
Lashley wiped away the tears as he described what this breakthrough meant and how he was affected by the family tragedy.
In 2004, Lashley's father, Rod, was piloting the small private plane as he and his wife, Char, and his son's girlfriend, Leslie Hofmeister, were travelling back to Nebraska when it went down in bad weather in a remote part of Wyoming. The trio were missing for three days before the wreckage was discovered.
"I've been through a lot," Lashley said. "It took a lot of years for me to get over my parents' death... It was mentally holding me back for a long time. I think about my parents all the time and was thinking about them out there.
"I was getting a little emotional walking up 18 even before I hit my second shot thinking about my parents, because without them I wouldn't be sitting here right now."
Lashley was watched by his sister, Brooke, at Detroit Golf Club, as he shot a final-round 70 to fend off countryman Doc Redman.
"It's a career-changing event getting a win out here," he said. "It gets me into Majors and gives me job security. It's huge for me."
What makes Lashley's glory all the more remarkable is that he quit the game six years ago and was focused on buying and selling houses.
"I thought I was pretty much done with golf," he said. "I was burnt out and needed a break." His "retirement" lasted just four months. "I've actually never been over to Europe, so I'm really looking forward to the Open," he said. "It's a dream come true." (© Daily Telegraph, London)