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Nate Lashley's inspiring story: A plane crash and the will to keep playing golf

  • June 30, 2019


The British Open at Royal Portrush is the only remaining major as the new look PGA Tour schedule winds down with two regular season events left after the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club.
Golfweek, USA Today Network

As Nate Lashley takes the Rocket Mortgage Classic field by surprise, here’s what we know about the 36-year-old, who has a six-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round at Detroit Golf Club.

Ranked No. 353 in the world and No. 132 in the 2019 FedEx Cup standings, Lashley turned pro in 2005 after graduating from the University of Arizona. The Scottsbluff, Nebraska, native played on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2006, but missed the cut in 12 of 14 events. He bounced around various smaller tours while selling real estate before his career turned around in 2015.

After qualifying for the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica in 2015, Lashley earned five top-10 finishes. The following year, he won three events and was named that tour’s player of the year. For his efforts, Lashley became exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour for 2017 and finished 11th on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card starting in 2018.

He suffered a knee injury in 2018 that stunted his rookie season, then bounced back to make 11 of 15 cuts in 2019, including an eighth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Open in February (his only top-10 finish on the PGA Tour). Lashley also had solid finishes at the Safeway Open (T-17), Sanderson Farms Championship (T-20), Desert Classic (T-12) and U.S. Open (T-28) this season.

Lashley has made $1.38 million during his career.

Fighting through adversity

While a junior at Arizona, his parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash on their way home from watching him compete at the 2004 NCAA West Regional.

“It was just shock,” Lashley said in a 2017 ESPN story. “Shock and disbelief. It was a really tough time, especially that week with the funerals and the memorial service. I was just kind of out of it.”

He also said: “Golf was a release, something to get away from it all,” he says. “When you’re on the course, your focus is on golf. It took away some of the pain from thinking about my parents and my girlfriend and the crash.”

How he got here

Lashley, as third alternate, was the player added to the field for the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic. He found out he qualified on Wednesday. He shot a 9-under-par 63 on Thursday, a 5-under 67 on Friday and a second 9-under 63 on Saturday, taking the first 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

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