Club pro Lewallen wins qualifier to grab spot in April's RBC Heritage
03/20/2014 12:35 AM
03/20/2014 12:51 AM
Rick Lewallen will always remember the conversation on the putting green at the Greater Greensboro Open in 1993.
The club professional had shot 69 the previous day in difficult conditions and was rolling putts to prepare for his second round when a pair of funky golf shoes strolled into view. A young Phil Mickelson wanted to congratulate Lewallen on his round in front of his home fans.
Lewallen, now a lifetime member of the Carolinas PGA section, has experienced a number of star-struck moments playing professional events, including the 1997 Heritage. He hopes to manage the experience better when he joins the field next month in the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
The Kannapolis, N.C., resident earned a spot in the field Monday with an even-par 72 at the Carolinas PGA Head Professional Championship on Berkeley Hall's North course.
Lewallen beat out International Junior Golf Academy's Ross Pracher and Bulls Bay professional Greg Boyette by a shot. Lewallen thought a poor final hole might have ended his chances after he had reached 2 under.
"I was hoping for a playoff," Lewallen said. "It ended up being good enough, thankfully."
As a lifetime member, Lewallen isn't affiliated with a club and spends his time preparing his game for tournament golf and a chance at the Champions Tour. The 54-year-old said he has reached the finals of Champions Tour qualifying but has yet to break through.
He shot 81-78 to miss the cut at the 1997 Heritage. He shot 77-76 at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.
Lewallen played golf at Myrtle Beach High School and Coastal Carolina, where he was an NAIA All-American, according to his website. He played in the Greater Greensboro Open four times and once in the Kemper Open, in addition to his appearance at Harbour Town.
He caddied on the Champions Tour from 2001 to 2004 and said the experience helped him better understand professional golf and deal with the nerves of interacting with the game's best players.
He hopes the experience pays off with a successful week at Harbour Town Golf Links, a shorter track he expects to be gentler than Quail Hollow.
"I'm chasing the Champions Tour really hard, so this tour event is serendipitous for me," Lewallen said.
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
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