Led wire-to-wire after earning a spot in the Monday qualifier
TUCSON, Ariz. ?- Former University of Arizona men’s golfer Chris Nallen made quite a statement in his Nationwide Tour debut by winning the 2004 Gila River Classic at Wild Horse Pass Resort in dominating fashion Sunday in Chandler, Ariz.
Nallen, a four time-All-American who completed his collegiate career with the lowest stroke average in University of Arizona history, carded a final-round 71 (-1) Sunday to win the event with a 24-under 264 total. He topped the field by eight strokes, the largest margin of victory on the Nationwide Tour this season. Nallen claimed $85,500 of the tournament’s $425,000 purse for his efforts.
Nallen’s performance, which included rounds of 60, 66, and 67 in the first three rounds, completed a whirlwind week. On Monday, he won the Monday qualifier with a 63 to earn a spot in his first-ever Nationwide Tour appearance. By going wire-to-wire, he became the first player in the 15-year history of the Nationwide Tour to earn a spot in his first appearance in a Monday qualifier and lead the event wire-to-wire.
His first professional tour victory was record setting in more than one area. Nallen posted eight birdies and two eagles en route to his opening-round 60 on Thursday, marking the lowest debut round in Tour history. In fact the score equals the third lowest in Tour annals, topped only by 58s by Notah Begay and Doug Dunakey both in 1998.
Furthermore, Nallen’s three-round total of 193 (-23) matched the lowest 54-hole tally in Tour history.
As mentioned above, Nallen’s Nationwide Tour debut, but he did make the cut in his professional debut earlier this season. He tied for 49th place at the PGA Tour’s Buick Championship, Aug. 26-29, at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. He earned $10,366 after carding a 69-70-74-66=279 (-1) total.
The 2004 Gila River Classic at Wild Horse Pass Resort was contested on the Cattail Course, a par 72, 7,240-yard layout. Nallen’s UA teammate Ricky Barnes finished in a tie for 40th place with an eight-under 280 total.
Nallen’s win also means that a former University of Arizona golfer has won at least one professional tournament in every season since 1985.