Professionally done: Sebastian Cappelen wins Air Capital Classic in pro debut

06/22/2014 5:18 PM

06/22/2014 10:42 PM

Audrey Dunn spent Sunday afternoon carrying a water bottle around Crestview Country Club and following the guy who persistently kept calling her 2 1/2 years ago when they were undergraduates at the University of Arkansas.

Dunn didn’t show it, but she felt the anxiety as her boyfriend, Sebastian Cappelen, tried to protect a precarious lead in the final round of the Air Capital Classic.

“I always get more nervous than he does,” Dunn said as she walked along the cart path on Crestview North’s 15th hole.

Moments later, Cappelen encountered a bad break when his approach shot to the par 4 landed hard and bounced over the green. It led to Cappelen’s second bogey in three holes and cut his lead over Web.com Tour veteran Matt Weibring to one shot.

Cappelen, making his professional debut after qualifying for the tournament on Monday, needed to show how calm he could be. The 24-year-old from Denmark did just that, responding with birdies on the next two holes to overcome Weibring’s formidable challenge and win his Web.com debut by one shot.

Cappelen’s 4-under-par 66 completed a whirlwind week in Wichita, making him the second golfer in the tournament’s 25-year history to win as a Monday qualifier. Ben Crane, a five-time PGA Tour winner, also accomplished the feat as a 24-year-old in 2000 at Willowbend.

A two-putt par on the final hole secured Cappelen’s victory, earned him $108,000 and ensured him a spot on the Web.com Tour through 2015. As the tap-in dropped into the cup, a flurry of thoughts raced through Cappelen’s mind.

“I didn’t miss it,” said Cappelen, who debuted at No. 15 on the tour’s season money list after posting an 18-under-par 262 total on the 6,926-yard layout. “I didn’t miss the putt. And I won. And then from there, it kept adding on.

“Now I play next week. Now I’m on the tour. Now I have all these opportunities. Now I have a schedule that I can play. I don’t have to go week by week. It kept adding on. Now my parents are happy. Now my friends are happy. My Twitter will blow up.”

Golfers grind for years to try to accomplish what Cappelen — who finished his college career last month at the NCAA Championships in Hutchinson — did on Sunday. Tested by a wayward driver throughout the back nine, Cappelen withstood the pressure cooker with poise that belied his experience.

Since surviving a seven-man playoff for the final three qualifying spots earlier in the week at Auburn Hills, Cappelen had been on a roll at Crestview. He posted back-to-back 65s to take a two-shot lead over tour veteran Andres Gonzales after 54 holes.

Cappelen’s smooth play continued early on Sunday, when he converted three front-nine birdies and made the turn with a three-shot lead.

But after hitting tee shots into the right rough on the 10th, 11th and 13th holes, Cappelen finally paid the price when he missed a 15-foot par putt at No. 13.

“My driver is the strongest club in my bag,” said Cappelen, who finished 10th among the field in driving distance at 321.5 yards. “I’ve got to believe that even when I’m not hitting it good. That’s what I’d been doing the last three days, and the last three days worked out pretty good.”

Weibring, playing one group ahead of Cappelen, made a strong bid for his first tour victory. He got within one shot of Cappelen on four occasions while carding a 64. But missed birdie attempts at Nos. 13 and 16 kept him from erasing the gap.

“Sixteen is maybe the one,” Weibring said of an 8-footer that curled just right of the hole. “I didn’t think it’d break that much. I made my fair share this week, so I’m not going to complain.”

With other contenders like Cameron Percy, who shot a tournament-best 62, and Jeff Gove hitting their ceiling at 14 under, Weibring and Cappelen engaged in the best drama of the tournament. With Cappelen watching from the 17th tee, Weibring, the son of Champions Tour player D.A. Weibring, rolled in a 25-foot birdie as the large crowd watching from double-deck grandstands roared.

“I just had a feeling on that one,” Weibring said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to make this.’ ”

Cappelen didn’t blink. He followed with a tee shot that cleared a greenside bunker and settled 6 feet past the hole, then matched Weibring’s birdie with a fist pump and a fist bump for his caddie and former college teammate, Jamie Marshall.

“I just tried to stay in my little bubble with my caddie, and try to get the job done,” Cappelen said of his thoughts at No. 17. “I like that hole visually with the grandstand behind there to that pin. You could start it right inside the grandstand and let it come right back into the pin, and it was perfect.”

Ahead of him, Weibring continued to test the rookie’s mettle with a birdie at the par-4 18th, set up by a 5-iron from 207 yards to within 4 feet. With Weibring headed to the final green, Cappelen’s drive at No. 18 again found the right rough.

Weibring pulled to within one shot with his birdie, then waited to learn his fate. Cappelen powered an 8-iron from 170 yards to the back fringe, setting up a two-putt for the huge splash to the start of his pro career.

“When I think back to on the course, I feel like my consciousness just kind of shut down,” Cappelen said. “I don’t really know what I was thinking. I was just relying on what I’ve been doing the last 10 years, what I’ve been doing the last month, the last week, the last couple days.”

Before he carried Cappelen’s bag for four days, Marshall had also played in the Monday qualifier. They agreed if one made it into the Air Capital Classic, the other would caddie.

Then there was Dunn, who graduated along with Cappelen last month from Arkansas. She stood on a set of bleacher steps, watching as Cappelen became the 14th golfer to win in his first start on the Web.com Tour. He also is the first golfer from Denmark to win on the Web.com.

“I’m just excited for him, especially since it’s opening up so many doors,” said Dunn, who was recently hired at J.B. Hunt Transport Services in Lowell, Ark. “When I’m out there with him, I’m still going to get nervous. But generally, excitement is what I feel.”

Notes – Georgia Tech senior Ollie Schniederjans tied for fifth, the best finish by an amateur in the history of the tournament. His final-round 67 included a hole-in-one with a 6-iron from 197 yards at the par-3 eighth. Former champions Brad Elder and Scott Parel tied for 28th. Vince India was 7 under through eight holes on the back nine and bogeyed No. 18 for a 29. India tied for 17th to earn a spot in this week’s United Leasing Championship. Former Alabama standout Cory Whitsett posted a 5-under 275 total and tied for 38th in his pro debut. Whitsett has a sponsor’s exemption to play in next week’s event. Former Kansas State golfer Aaron Watkins, the 18- and 36-hole leader, tied for 14th at 10 under after weekend rounds of 71 and 70.

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