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Air Capital Classic notes: Max Homa is pro to the stars

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 10:03 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 19, 2014, at 7:22 a.m.

Whoever wins the Air Capital Classic this weekend at Crestview Country Club most certainly won’t have the same celebration as Web.com Tour rookie Max Homa did last month.

Homa, a 23-year-old from Valencia, Calif., won the BMW Charity Pro-Am after shooting a final-round 63 at Thornblade Club in Greer, S.C. It was the first professional victory for the 2013 NCAA individual champion, who played at California.

After making the winning putt, Homa received a hug from his amateur playing partner – actress Janet Jones-Gretzky – the wife of former hockey star Wayne Gretzky.

“It was just cool being with somebody who’s very competitive, but she’s very friendly with her fans and those who come to support her,” Homa said. “It was nice to see somebody do it so gracefully.”

The Golf Channel televised the event – played on three courses in four days – with a heavy focus on celebrities. That allowed Homa, who started the final round two shots out of the lead, to fly under the radar in his one-shot victory.

“I watched the coverage when I first played Thornblade, and I played really well that day,” said Homa, who won $117,000. “I was on TV for like the last hole.

“I was like, ‘This is actually kind of nice.’ People don’t even notice I’m doing anything because usually your phone blows up for a while.”

Homa, who grew up 40 minutes from where the Gretzkys live in Los Angeles, stayed in contact with his playing partner during last week’s U.S. Open. “She’s made me a huge Dustin Johnson fan,” he said. Johnson is engaged to the Gretzkys’ daughter, Paulina.

Homa’s pro-am team finished ninth at the BMW. The winning team was Canadian Adam Hadwin and Wayne Gretzky.

Crestview’s change – For the first time since 2002, Crestview’s North course will play as a par 70 for the Air Capital Classic. The par-5 18th will be converted to a 486-yard par 4 for the tournament.

The change was made after the club approved tournament director Roy Turner’s request to construct a new tee box 20 yards left of the original. It was done to accommodate expansion to the double-decker grandstand area behind the green at the adjacent par-3 17th.

“Last year, you’d get on this tee box, and you’d breathe a sigh of relief,” said Byron Smith, a tour winner this season who tied for 54th in the 2013 tournament. “I could birdie this or, at worst, par. Now, it’s a testing hole. You have to hit a really good tee shot and a quality second shot just to walk off with a 4.”

Crestview was switched back to a par 71 for the 2003 tournament, and has been played that way ever since. When it was a par 70, Tyler Williamson won the event at 8-under 272, the highest score in relation to par and cumulatively in tournament history.

Champions in the field – In addition to defending champion Scott Parel, four other former Air Capital Classic winners will be in the field.

Former Oklahoma State golfer Casey Wittenberg, the 2012 winner, is back after spending the 2013 season on the PGA Tour. Also returning are 2011 winner Mathew Goggin, two-time winner Brad Elder (1999 and 2007) and 2003 champ Jeff Klauk.

Elder received a exemption into the field. He is the tournament’s career money leader with $152,824 in 10 appearances.

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