GEORGETOWN — The final round of the Cherry Blossom Classic turned out to be a fun-in-the-sun family reunion for Brandon Brown.
Cheered on by 18 relatives from his hometown of Shelbyville, Brown won the Hooters Tour event at Cherry Blossom Golf & Country Club Sunday afternoon.
"Whew, it feels amazing," Brown said after his second Hooters victory this year. The $28,000 first-place check puts him atop the tour's money list with $75,561.
The former Eastern Kentucky University star and Ohio Valley Conference player of the year had a final-round 68, good enough to edge Casey Wittenberg, Justin Smith and Scott Feaster by one shot.
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Former University of Kentucky golfer Andy Winings, who started the day in the lead, closed with a 72 and tied for fifth.
Mark Blakefield, another UK alum who won this tournament two of the last three years, tied for eighth.
It was an enjoyable week for Brown, who carded 21 birdies and two eagles while shooting 70-66-66-68—270.
Brown's followers Sunday included grandfathers, uncles, cousins and his beaming-proud dad Lloyd, the only guy who's ever given him a golf lesson.
Brown had to sweat out a tense finish because of Cherry Blossom's difficult par-4 18th hole, which has a lake in play from tee to green.
Brown, playing in the next-to-last group, came to the 18th with a one-shot lead.
He and Smith both missed the fairway off the tee, both found sand in front of the green with their approach shots, and both took bogeys.
Brown had to make a nervy four-footer to finish at 18 under, then had to wait to see how Wittenberg, playing in the last group, would negotiate the 18th hole.
Wittenberg, a former college star at Oklahoma State who finished 13th as an amateur in the 2004 Masters and played on the PGA Tour in 2008 and '09, needed a par to tie. He hit a good drive, but his second shot was off target. His 65-foot chip from in front of the green rolled 15 feet by, and he lipped out the par putt to drop to 17-under.
That sealed the victory for Brown, who was waiting by the clubhouse when he was relayed news that he had won.
"You don't pull against those guys; you want them to play well," Brown said. "It just worked out this week that 18 under was good enough."
Winings started the day at 16 under and still shared the lead midway through the back nine. But bogeys at the 14th, 16th and 17th dropped him out of contention.
"There were some tough pins, the wind was blowing and the rough was tough today," Winings said. "I played pretty well all week, but in the end it wasn't good enough."
Brown's game was good enough as he earned his third Hooters Tour win.
His first victory came in 2007, when his dad was his caddy. But two years later he found himself in a funk, not sure whether he wanted to continue to chase his dream of playing on the PGA Tour.
After putting away his clubs for several months starting in fall 2009, Brown returned to competition in spring 2010 and found golf could be fun again.
"Brandon has grown so much as a player and matured so much in the last year, it's unbelievable," his dad said as he watched his son being interviewed by TV reporters.
And Brandon Brown, 28, is once again focused on making it to the PGA Tour.
"You just keep plugging," he said, "and hopefully one day you get to the next level."
Lloyd Brown has no doubt about his son's future: "It's just a matter of time until he makes it."