Kevin Streelman had been waiting for this day for 10 years.
Having traveled many miles, accepted numerous and generous loans from family members, through sore shoulders of carrying other golfers’ bags, the 34-year-old journeyman was practically down on his luck, wondering if a day like Sunday would ever happen.
“People always ask if you’ve won yet,” Streelman said. “It’s not going to change who I am, but I am very thankful for my team and people that I’ve surrounded myself with. Hopefully, we can do it again.”
Streelman hopes it won’t take another 153 starts, but as he tapped in a par putt on the 18th hole of the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort on the drizzling, overcast evening, Streelman finally captured his first PGA Tour win by shooting a 10-under-par 274 to edge Boo Weekley by two shots at the Tampa Bay Championship.
“I kept it one shot at a time,” said Streelman, who didn’t make a bogey during his final 37 holes. “I was at peace with whatever the result may be and wasn’t going to let one week, good or bad, dictate that.”
With the win, Streelman jumped to sixth in the FedEx Cup standings, and he also became the third player to make this tournament his first PGA win, joining Carl Pettersson in 2005 and Gary Woodland in 2011.
Streelman also earns full exception on the tour through 2015 and a spot in this year’s Masters Tournament in April and the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
On top of that, Streelman earned a career-best check of $990,000, which is quite a payday for a struggling golfer who was working as a part-time caddie at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., 10 years ago.
It’s a testament to the same player who is dubiously known for making the cut here in 2008, but then shooting a third-round 84 before dropping out of the fourth round.
“I had kind of forgotten about that,” Streelman said with a laugh. “After that, I got out of town. This course can do that to you. It really tests you.”
A golfer who passed the test Sunday was Weekley, who shot a Sunday-best 63 after starting the day at even par. Weekley, who had shoulder surgery three months ago, was bogey free through 29 holes and had three straight birdies from Nos. 14-16.
“I figured I had to get to 7, 8 or 9 under to be close,” Weekley said. “This is the best I’ve shot here and the course is right up my alley. It’s a ball striker’s course.”
Weekley, 39, had missed the cut at Copperhead four of the six times he’s played here since 2002. He missed the course record (61) by two shots.
“I’m still kind of shocked at how good I really hit it (Sunday),” Weekley said. “This is one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.”
Streelman’s victory continued a season-long streak of only American winners on the PGA Tour, and he became the fifth first-time winner in 2013.
Not bad for 10 years in the making.
“I was having fun,” Streelman said. “(My caddie) A.J. (Montecinos) and I were picking targets and picking the right club and just swinging. I was letting go of the results. We were meditating on a lot of Scripture together. We were singing together. We were having fun.
“That’s when I’m playing my best is when I’m just enjoying myself when I’m golfing.”