But when push came to shove, Lowe delivered the knockout blow in the form of a thrilling birdie on the 18th hole. It put the wraps on a final-round 70, earning Lowe a one-shot victory over Todd Ricker.
“I’m extremely proud they came after me and I was able to hold them off,” Lowe said after recording a 13-under 203. “And they came hard.”
As a steady rain fell on Elizabethton Golf Course, Ricker and Chris Wynne made a charge at Lowe. Playing just ahead of the final group, Wynne fired a 31 on the front nine despite making a bogey on the par-4 ninth hole. After the turn, Wynne’s playing partner caught fire. Ricker started piling up birdies, and it didn’t take long for the duo to catch Lowe’s attention.
“Chris started on his roar on the front nine and Todd started later,” Lowe said. “I was just watching the numbers go up (on the scoreboard) and I couldn’t believe it. But at the same time I was still playing OK.”
Disaster found Wynne on the par-5 14th in the form of a lost ball, which led to the double bogey that dropped him from contention.
“I still had it going on the back, but I three-putted for par on 11 and then made that double on 14,” Wynne said. “I was 1 under from there, but it definitely took the wind out of my sails.”
Wynne went on to card a 5-under 67 to finish with a with a 9-under 207, leaving him all alone in third place.
Lowe appeared to slam the door on No. 14 when he put his second shot within 3 feet of the stick and knocked in the ensuing eagle putt for a four-shot lead. But he missed short putts for par on Nos. 15 and 16 while Ricker continued his charge.
Ricker nearly holed his second shot for an eagle on No. 16 before settling for a birdie. He followed that by knocking down an improbable birdie putt from the back fringe on No. 18 to pull into a tie with Lowe, who heard the roar carry all the way to the 18th tee box.
“Sitting on the 18 tee, I knew I needed to make birdie,” Lowe said.
With Ricker signing for his 6-under 66, Lowe put a 3-wood into the middle of the fairway and proceeded to hit the shot of the tournament into the 18th green.
“I had a shot I was comfortable with on my approach,” Lowe said. “I had right about 100 yards, and that’s what I wanted. It was dancing all around the hole — I thought it might go in, but it was close enough.”
Moments later, Lowe sank a 3-foot birdie putt that sealed the deal.
Although he came up one shot short, Ricker was pleased with his effort.
“I was five back,” he said. “I didn’t realistically think I had a chance to win unless (Lowe) didn’t play well, and he played well.”
Bryan Sangid, who entered the final round just three shots behind Lowe, struggled to a final-round 74. His total of 210 landed him in a fourth-place tie with Colin Chapman, who carded a 1-over 73 on Sunday.
In the senior championship flight, Mark Runyon fired a 4-under 68 that put him into a sudden-death playoff against Bryan Rodgers, who also finished with a 213 total.
After six holes of back-and-forth action, Runyon closed out Rodgers by making a slippery downhill birdie putt from about 12 feet.
“I felt very fortunate that everyone came back to me,” Runyon said. “I just figured after yesterday’s 74 that I had shot myself out of it.”
Mike Freels, the leader heading into the final round, finished with two bogeys and a double bogey to fall out of contention. His final- round of 79 left him alone in fourth at 219. Dwight Scott’s 70 gave him a 217 total and a third-place finish.