NAPA (AP) — Cameron Champ broke down in tears when it was over.
Playing while his grandfather fights cancer in nearby Sacramento, the 24-year-old Champ won the Safeway Open on Sunday for his second PGA Tour title. He made a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole for a one-stroke victory over Adam Hadwin at Silverado Resort.
Champ raised both arms then shared a long embrace with his caddie before breaking into tears as he hugged his father, Jeff, on the green. Champ’s grandfather, Mack, is battling stomach cancer and is in hospice. Mack introduced Champ to golf at a young age.
“For me to do something like this, for me to win, and for him to be able to witness and watch on TV, I know he was probably amped up,” Champ said. “For him to be able to see me make that putt on 18 on the 72nd hole, that will go down as the greatest moment ever in my career.
“It was just kind of meant to be. Everything fell into place.”
Champ’s second victory in 33 events didn’t come without its moments, especially down the stretch.
Three strokes ahead entering the round, Champ had five birdies and overcame a bogey on No. 17 — “Adrenaline,” Champ said — to hold off Hadwin. Champ closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 17-under 271.
Afterward, Champ was handed a cell phone by his father. On the other end was Mack.
“With everything going on with my family, with my grandpa, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to play,” Champ said. “I showed up Thursday and teed it up with no practice round, nothing. The whole week there was nothing else on my mind. It just kind of blurred everything else.”
Hadwin birdied the final three holes for a 67 to tie Champ at 16 under, then watched from nearby as Champ nearly chipped in for eagle on 18 before making the short birdie putt.
“At least I made him think about it a little bit,” Hadwin said. “I knew I had to do something special. Put a little pressure on him and made him make birdie for it.”
Champ missed every fairway on the front nine but made several big second shots to stay in front. None was more impressive than after he drove into the far left rough on the par-5 fifth, pitched up and over a tall tree and onto the green 17 feet away and two-putted for birdie.
Champ bogeyed No. 8, but rebounded with a birdie on No. 9. He had a short chip-in for par on No. 11 after chunking his approach shot.
“I just kept grinding,” said Champ, who had 21 birdies in the four rounds. “I got some key up-and-downs. The chip-in on 11 was huge, and the up-and-down on 15 just kind of kept my round going.”
Champ’s only other tour victory came last October in Mississippi at the Sanderson Farms Championship. He hadn’t finished higher than sixth since, missing the cut 12 times.
Marc Leishman (65) was third at 14 under. Justin Thomas (69), Charles Howell III (68) and Zac Blair (68) were 13 under.