Gotterup is an appropriate first champion at Myrtle Beach

Chris Gotterup sports his new blue jacket as Myrtle Beach’s first champion. (Joy Sarver Photo)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – This was only fitting.  The newest tournament on the PGA Tour was won by one of the circuit’s youngest players.

Chris Gotterup, just 24 and barely a year removed from his last college tournament, captured the inaugural Myrtle Beach Classic at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club.  He took a four-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round, then floundered twice before finally putting the win away.

Gotterup opened the final round with two bogeys then went birdie-eagle-birdie to open a five-shot lead.  The lead was in jeopardy again when he struggled on the first four holes of the back nine.  His advantage was cut to two after 13 holes before he regrouped again to beat closest rivals Davis Thompson and Canadian Alistair Docherty and earn the blue jacket — the start of a tradition for the tournament’s champions.

“No matter what tournament I’m in, I’m going to grind it out,’’ said Gotterup, whose two comebacks made the surprise arrival of his parents and two brothers all the more special.  They weren’t expected here until Monday.

The final round was marked by a 10-under-par 61 by Denmark’s Thorbjern Oleson, a course record on the ocean-side layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1948. Gotterup’s closing 67 and gave him a 72-hole score of 22-under-par 262.

Meanwhile, Gotterup had only one top-five finish to show for his first 26 starts on the PGA Tour but is now headed for this week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla, in Louisviile, KY. The year’s second major championship tees off on Thursday and Sunday’s win got him there.

Gotterup spent his first four collegiate years at Rutgers, where he had a Player of the Year season.   Then he took a redshirt year at Oklahoma and was even better there. He followed it up by getting eight starts on the PGA Tour, many through sponsor exemptions.

Those eight starts technically ruled Gotterup out of rookie status on the PGA Tour for this season, but he has no complaints about that.

“Those eight starts were huge for me,’’ he said.  “I left school with no status at all but I played good and grinded it out.’’

He also did just that to get his first professional win in the first PGA Tour event at Myrtle Beach, a golf mecca that justifiably bills itself as “the World’s Golf Capital.’’

The tourney, blessed with beautiful weather and good crowd support, made its debut on the same day that the Wells Fargo Championship, held just 173 miles away in Charlotte, N.C., with a much stronger field than Myrtle Beach’s, ended its PGA Tour run.  That decision was made by its sponsor several months ago, but its site – Quail Hollow – will host next year’s PGA Championship.