Vince Covello wins first Tour title


BROUSSARD, Louisiana  After two late bogeys seemingly pushed him out of contention, Vince Covello birdied the final hole in regulation and the third playoff hole to earn his first Tour title at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS. Covello topped 54-hole leader Justin Lower in the playoff with a birdie after both players made pars on the first two holes. The playoff was contested on the 18th hole (repeating) at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club after both players ended regulation at 19-under 265.

“It’s unbelievable,” said an emotional Covello. I wasn’t sure this day would ever come. I feel blessed to be here and lucky that I got it done. It was certainly a crazy finish there at the end. I pulled everything out that I could and it ended up being enough.

Entering the final hole needing a birdie to tie Lower at 19-under, Covello stuck his ball to one foot away for an easy birdie and entry into a playoff. He then promptly pulled his drive into the water to start the playoff but got up and down from 113 yards for par to match Lower.

“When I was down there [by the water], I knew I wasn’t done yet,” said Covello. I still had a chance. I still ended up with a clean lie and a good angle into the pin, so somehow I talked myself into believing that I still had a chance. I made that 10-12 footer to extend it, and that was huge.

All week long Covello relied on his iron play at the par-71 course. He led the field in greens in regulation through three rounds before hitting only 11/18 during the final round. The University of North Florida alum began the day with a bogey at the first before rattling off birdies at Nos. 4, 5 and 7 to make the turn at 2-under. After another birdie at the par-5 12th, Covello bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14, falling three back of Lower. But Lower bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 to open the door and Covello responded with birdies on 16 and 18 to reach the playoff.

“I always felt like I was good enough to win, but you don’t know until you actually do it, until you prove it,” said Covello. Today I proved it and I’m really proud of that. I’ve had a couple of wins on the mini-tour level, came close in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour, but this is definitely my biggest win to date.

The 36-year-old has played professional golf for the last 15 years across many different levels and on the Tour full-time over the last two years. He previously had two career top-10 finishes in 79 career starts.

With the runner-up, Lower posted his best career finish on the Tour, topping his third-place finish at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open last year. Lower came agonizingly close to earning his PGA TOUR card last year at the Tour Finals, finishing 26th on the money list after missing a birdie putt at the final hole that would have placed him in the top-25.

“Hats off to Vince, we played the last 36 holes together and it was a lot of fun,” said Lower, who had a putt to win it at 18 in regulation and in the first two playoff holes. It’s just golf, it’s the way it is. He played well down the stretch and that’s what you need to do. You can lead for 70 holes or however many you want, but if you’re not leading after 72 then it doesn’t matter.

Veterans Fabián Gómez, Steve Marino and Xinjun Zhang tied for third at 18-under 266.

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