LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - After five years of coming close, Xavier University graduate Andy Pope earned his first victory as a professional golfer Thursday afternoon at an NGA Tour Bridgestone Winter Series event held at Disney - Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.
Pope, a Glen Ellyn, Ill. native who attended Xavier University from 2002-06, carded a 67 in the final round to best Joe Affrunti, Chris Ross, Sam Ryder and Lanto Griffin by a single shot and earn his first NGA Tour victory.
Pope had several near misses during the 2012 season on the Web.com Tour.
"I needed to learn how to win," Pope said via a press release from the NGA Tour. "I came close out here in the past and had a couple of chances to win on the Web.com Tour this season. I drew off of those experiences. I knew if I could hit a couple of great shots down the stretch I could win."
After a three-putt bogey on the 16th hole put him one shot back, Pope rebounded by reaching the green of the par-5 17th hole in two shots and burying an eagle putt to move him to the top of the leaderboard.
"I knew Joe [Affrunti] was in front of me and we were both 15 under at No. 16," Pope said. "After my bogey, I saw him make a putt on No. 17. I thought it was for birdie, but it was a par. I felt like I needed eagle to keep pace with Joe."
Pope finished with a par on the final hole of regulation to help secure his first NGA victory in 89 starts.
"This course was in great shape, so I knew it was gettable out here," Pope said after securing victory and the check for $10,900 that came along with it. "You couldn't shoot a couple under and win. I knew I needed to make some putts, and I made some on the back nine in the final round. Getting a win like this boosts the confidence and gives me something to build on going into the next year."
Pope, who had two top-10 finishes on the Web.com Tour this season, finished with rounds of 66-67-67 for a 16-under par 200 over the course of three rounds.