Former Clemson golfer Ben Martin wins Tour event

That older gentleman seen turning cartwheels down an Irmo street Monday morning remains unidentified, but witnesses report he looked suspiciously like Happ Lathrop.

Lathrop, executive director of the South Carolina Golf Association, had a good reason to be excited Monday. For the second time this year, two players who grew up in the state’s junior golf program won on the same weekend.

Bill Haas (Greenville) captured the PGA Tour’s AT&T tourney Sunday, and Ben Martin — who grew up in Greenwood, lives in Greenville and won all-star honors at Clemson — claimed the Tour’s tournament in Indiana in a four-way playoff Monday morning.

“Pretty special,” Lathrop said.

The Haas-Martin “double” matches the feat achieved by a pair of Aiken golfers in March, when Scott Brown won the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open and Kevin Kisner earned the’s top prize in Chile.

Martin, Kisner and Mark Anderson (BMW Pro-Am) give graduates of the state junior program three wins in the tour’s 14 events. Three more who honed their games in the state junior program — Haas, Brown and Dustin Johnson (Tournament of Champions) — have won on the PGA Tour this year.

Martin’s triumph Monday assures his return to the PGA Tour in 2014. He vaulted to fourth place in earnings. The top-25 money winners on the Tour qualify for PGA exemptions the following year.

Martin closed with a 5-under 67 to tie for the lead in the rain-delayed Indiana tournament, then made short work of the Monday-morning playoff. He tapped in for par of the first hole after his opponents found trouble off the tee.

Martin, Billy Hurley III, Ashley Hall and Joe Affrunti had to wait an extra 80 minutes for maintenance crews to make the 18th hole playable at Victoria National Golf Club, which received more than nine inches of rain during the week.

Martin, runner-up in the 2009 U.S. Amateur, hit his 6-iron second shot to 20 feet, and his birdie putt lipped out, stopping within tap-in range.

“I had about 12-14 inches to tap in, but that’s still nerve wracking,” he said. “(Winning) is still sinking in. It’s a great feeling.”

Martin earned his PGA Tour card for 2011 through qualifying school his first year after Clemson, but he failed to earn enough to maintain his playing privileges. He spent 2012 on the Tour and used a late-season flurry to remain exempt this year.

He had finished fourth in the Raleigh tourney a week earlier and had climbed to 21st in earnings before his $108,000 check Monday. He ranks first on the in greens in regulation and ball striking, seventh in scrambling and eighth in total driving.

“You just try to get a little better every year and that’s what I’ve done since junior golf and up through college,” Martin said. “It’s just a process out there of doing the little things that I need to do to get better and trusting the results will come.”

The best results so far came Monday.