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Former OC golf star Gibson wins NGA Tour event

Former OC golf standout Rhein Gibson (center) receives his $22,000 check after winning the Avoca Classic.
Former OC golf standout Rhein Gibson (center) receives his $22,000 check after winning the Avoca Classic.

WINDSOR, N.C. (June 17, 2013) – After receiving a $22,000 check for winning the Avoca Classic at Scotch Hall Preserve on Sunday, Rhein Gibson looked around and said, “I’m surprised as anyone that I’m standing here.”

Gibson’s bewilderment was due to the fact that on Friday, the Oklahoma Christian alumnus needed a birdie on the tournament’s 36th hole just to make the cut. The former Eagle standout made the most of the weekend, however, shooting a 4-under 68 in the third round on Saturday and carding a 6-under 66 on Sunday to earn his first NGA Tour victory in come-from-behind fashion.

“I made the cut on the number, but I knew I was playing good,” said Gibson, who finished with an 8-under 280 total. “I tried to give myself some opportunities in the last few rounds. I made a couple of putts on Saturday and made a couple good ones today, too.”

While most of the leaders were trying to stay in red numbers during the blustery conditions in the final round, Gibson had no such trouble navigating the picturesque course along the Inner Banks of North Carolina on Sunday. The Australian golfer, who lives in Edmond, Okla., ran off four birdies over his first seven holes to move into contention.

“I knew it was playing tough, so I thought if I could post a score it may hold up,” said Gibson, who started the final round in a tie for 19th. “I turned in 4 under and birdied 11 and 12 to get to 6 under and 8 under for the tournament. At that point, I felt if I could birdie one or two more coming in that I would have a good chance at winning.”

Gibson wasn’t able to add any more birdies to his card over the final six holes, but pars proved to be just as good on the wind-battered closing holes at Scotch Hall Preserve. After picking up pars on his final six holes, Gibson headed to the clubhouse at 8-under par, one shot behind third-round leader Jeff Corr.

Corr, the 2011 NGA Tour player of the year, didn’t have as much luck on the backside on Sunday. The Jacksonville (Ala.) State alumnus carried a one-shot lead into the 12th hole, but his third bogey of the day left him tied with Gibson at 8 under. After finding the green in regulation on Nos. 16 and 17, Corr carded three-putt bogeys on both and removed any doubt from the outcome. Corr shot a final-round 75, finished at 6-under par and earned $11,414 for the runner-up effort.

With the win, Gibson takes the lead in the “Race for the Utah Championship” exemption. The leading money winner from the Avoca Classic and next week’s Cutter Creek Classic in Snow Hill, N.C., will receive an event exemption into the Web.com Tour event.

“If you don’t have status, the only way to get into those events is a Monday qualifier or an exemption,” said Gibson. “It’s great that we can win these exemptions that the NGA Tour has. I’m in the driver’s seat right now and hopefully I can get it. It’s a good opportunity to get to play at the next level.”