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By Adam Thompson, Sports Editor, New Bern Sun Journal
Justin Lower made his way down the 18th fairway needing to make his putt in two strokes or less.
The native of Canal Fulton, Ohio, clinging to a one-shot lead in Sunday’s final round, dropped his second shot on the par four within 30-feet of the pin, and two putts later, he secured his first win on the SwingThought Tour since 2013.
Lower, who was behind by three strokes approaching the 13th tee box, rallied to claim the New Bern Pro Classic at The Emerald Golf Course. He finished at 18-under par to earn the top prize of $16,500.
“I just told myself to dig deep and I’ll be fine,” Lower said. “That’s what I do every round it seems like especially when I am in contention. If I don’t get it done early, I get it done late.
“I knew I was hitting it good, so if I gave myself more opportunities, I would be OK.”
Bo Andrews, a Raleigh native and leader entering the final round, carded a double bogey on 13, while Lower birdied to even the match at 17-under par. “That was huge. That’s the deficit I had going into today,” Lower said. “I didn’t see any leaderboards at that point, I didn’t even look at the one on 18. I just had a feeling. “It was a great tournament.”
Lower made five birdies to make up for a double bogey and bogey on the front nine. His birdie on 17 gave him his one-shot edge. Lower hit his first shot on 18 to the left of the fairway. His next shot, from 190-yards away, he used a 7-iron and landed it 30-feet beyond the pin. The first putt rolled within two feet of the cup and he tapped it in for the victory.
“Anyone out here can win on any given week. We are all good players and we are trying to move on to the next level,” Lower said. “To have something like this, it’s great.
“I’m glad I came out on top.” Lower finished third at this tournament last year after losing to Justin Martinson on the third playoff hole.
Blake Sattler, last year’s winner, scored a final round 68, giving him a second-place finish at 17-under par. The New Philadelphia, Ohio native made four birdies to win $7,083. Sattler said he didn’t start to pay attention to the leaderboard until late in his round. “The first 12 or 13 holes, it was not on my mind. I was just playing golf,” Sattler said. “When I learned that the leaders had backed up a little bit, then I took a look and was asking around.
“I always like to know where I am at. If you don’t want to know where you are, you must be scared of something.”
Once Sattler learned of Andrews double bogey on 13, he knew he could get back into contention.
“I got a little help from the top,” Sattler said. “I went out and game-planned. I didn’t want to make a bogey, I didn’t want to make it easier for them to win this golf tournament. I wanted to make it hard on them.
“The last two days I shot a 10-under with no bogeys. I stuck to my game plan and moved my way up the leaderboard.”
Martinson, who came in second last year, and Billy Kennerly finished in a tie for second at 17-under par.
Martinson, from Avondale, Pa., had five birdies and two bogeys in his final round 69 and Kennerly, from Alpharetta, Ga., carded six birdies and no bogeys en route to a 66.
“I was going at every flag. I was hitting good, got a little short-sided a couple times but in general, I played pretty well today,” Martinson said. “When I didn’t birdie 17, I knew I had to birdie 18.
“I did not pick the right club off the tee box. I hit a good second shot, but a 30-footer (putt) on the last hole is not what you want.”
Andrews, along with Lanto Griffin and Christian Brand, tied for fifth place at 16-under par.
Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ