Just as his pro-am partners predicted a few days earlier, Tom Scherrer became the ninth first-time PGA Tour winner at the Kemper Insurance Open on Sunday.
"One of the guys gave me this solid gold ball mark," Scherrer said. "He said, `If you use this ball mark, you'll win the tournament.' I'm going to have that ball mark for a long time."
Steve Lowery, who held or shared the lead for the first three rounds, shot even-par 71 and tied for second with Justin Leonard (69), Greg Chalmers (68), Kazuhiko Hosokawa (66) and Franklin Langham (70).
Scherrer, who didn't lead until the back nine on the final day, closed with a 4-under-par 67 Sunday for a two-stroke victory at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. He was the only player to shoot sub-70 rounds each day and his 67-68-69-67-271 (13 under) effort earned him the life-changing winner's check
"I'm sure it will change," said Scherrer, whose $540,000 share accounts for about one-third of his career earnings. "It's something I've been dreaming about forever. It's going to change my life, but it's not going to change me."
But he will have to delay his victory celebrations, because he has to be up at the crack of dawn Monday for a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier at the nearby Woodmont course.
During Wednesday's pro-am, the amateurs in Scherrer's fivesome reminded him of the Kemper Insurance Open's legacy of producing first-time winners and suggested this might his turn.
Scherrer seemingly was due. The 29-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native had been playing his best golf lately, with a career best second-place tie at the Touchstone Energy Tucson Open in February. He opened the Memorial Tournament with rounds of 69 and 71 before falling back into the pack over the weekend.
Still, the victory was over whelming. Scherrer's wife, Jennifer, was in tears at the 18th green as she carried their 11-month-old son, Thomas William. Scherrer, too, got choked up before he raised the trophy he had eyed since noticing it at THE PLAYERS Championship in March.
"Where we would eat, there was a trophy room of all the trophies from all the tournaments," Scherrer said. "I remember looking at them and thinking that Kemper Open one is really nice. I said, `That's one of the better looking ones there.' So here I am a few months later, and I've got it."
Scherrer is the event's ninth first-time winner in 18 years, joining Fred Couples (1983), Greg Norman (1984), Bill Glasson (1985), Tom Byrum (1989), Billy Andrade (1991), Grant Waite (1993), Steve Stricker (1996) and Rich Beem (1999. Scherrer's rookie year on TOUR was 1996, but he lost his playing privileges at the end of the year when he finished 141st on the money list. After two years on the BUY.COM TOUR, he regained his card and returned last year.
Scherrer began the day at 9 under, trailing Lowery by two strokes. He made up the deficit with birdies at Nos. 2 and 6 before a disheartening three-putt from 14 feet gave him a bogey as he made the turn.
But he recovered immediately, making a 22-foot birdie putt at No. 10 and another from 5 feet at No. 11 to take sole possession of the lead for the first time at 12 under.
From there, Scherrer, 170th in the Official World Golf Ranking and Lowery, ranked 163rd, jockeyed for the lead. Scherrer won by making two nice par saves, while Lowery bogeyed twice down the stretch.
Lowery tied Scherrer with a birdie at the 13th, but Scherrer chipped within a foot at the short par-4 14th for a birdie to regain sole ownership of the lead at 13 under. Lowery nearly duplicated the feat moments later, making a short putt to tie Scherrer again.
Scherrer nearly lost the lead when his approach sailed over the green at No. 15, but he saved par with a 15-foot putt. He then sprayed his tee shot at the next hole way right -- beyond the cart path and next to a green plastic trunk under the television crane.
"It's embarrassing to hit a shot that far off line," Scherrer said. Scherrer was given a drop, only to hook his next shot into the back greenside bunker. His wedge shot landed within 3 feet, setting up a par to keep his one-stroke lead. Lowery, whose only PGA TOUR victory came six years ago, fell out of the tie when he missed an 8-foot putt for par after landing in the sand at 15. The victory was sealed for Scherrer when Lowery's tee shot landed in the water at the par-317th. He had an opportunity for outright second, only to miss a 5-foot birdie chance at the last.
"I had a chance and just couldn't quite get it done," Lowery said. "It's a fine line between winning and not winning. I was trying to make birdie (on 17), not play it safe. I hung that shot out to the right, but I don't hang my head. I gave it a good effort."
Scherrer, who lost the final of the U.S. Amateur to Leonard in 1992, was walking off the 18th tee when he heard the crowd at the 17th moan, indicating Lowery's ball was in the water.
"I had a two-shot lead, but it didn't make it any easier," he said. "I'm so pleased that my wife and baby were here.
"I've been very happy with my career. I feel I've gotten better every year. It takes a lot of luck to win, and the breaks just went my way today (Sunday)." Sunday ended a high-profile week for Lowery, who played the final round with Tiger Woods at the Memorial Tournament on Monday before nearly leading this tournament from start to finish.
"It's a lot of stress on you," Lowery said.
For a while, it seemed Chalmers would walk away with the tournament. The left-handed Australian birdied four of the first five holes, draining a 30-footer at No. 4, to take the lead at 12 under. But the lefty put his tee shot in the water at the par-3 ninth and moved back into a four-way tie for the lead with Lowery, Scherrer and Leonard. Leonard made an 11-foot birdie putt at No. 9 and also birdied No. 11 to hold the lead by himself at 12 under. But his stay at the top was short-lived when he pulled his tee shot into the rough at the difficult 12th for a double-bogey.
An impressive run was made by Hosokawa, who started the day five strokes off the lead at 6 under. Hosokawa had four birdies on the back nine and nearly made a 15-foot birdie putt at the 17th that would have tied him for the lead. He also came within an inch of holing out from the rough at 18, finishing a 31 on the back nine.
Another gorgeous day -- Friday was the only unbearably humid day this year -- made conditions good for a course that usually doesn't yield many birdies. Michael Clark II, one of the early starters, tied a tournament record Sunday with an 8-under 63.