Thursday October 19th, 2017 9:24PM

Brown goes wire-to-wire to capture NGA's Milton Martin title

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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GAINESVILLE -- Brandon Brown couldn't muster his best golf on Sunday.<br /> <br /> Thanks to Thursday and Friday it hardly mattered.<br /> <br /> Brown cruised to his first NGA Tour victory of the year in the final round of the Milton Martin Honda Classic at Gainesville's Chattahoochee Golf Club, shooting a 1-under 71 to finish the tournament a jaw-dropping 20-under-par (268).<br /> <br /> "I was playing a little more protective today and it showed," said Brown, a Shelbyville, Ky., resident, who scorched Chattahoochee with a 62 on Thursday and 65 on Friday to build a dominant lead. <br /> <br /> Brown entered Sunday's final round with a four stroke advantage over Justin Martinson, while Andy Winings and Patton Kizzire lurked in third and fourth place, respectively. And it looked like no one would have a chance to catch Brown after he birdied No. 1 to move to 20-under -- but Kizzire did his best to keep the pressure on.<br /> <br /> The St. Simons Island resident dropped birdies on four of his first six holes to move to 16-under and was just three back of Brown when the leader bogeyed No. 14 -- the hole which dogged Brown for three bogeys over the tournament; he only notched seven bogeys in all four days.<br /> <br /> "I saw the leaderboard going on to 10 today, and I still had a pretty good lead, but I hit some errant shots after that," Brown said. "I just started thinking too far ahead."<br /> <br /> The NGA veteran wasn't about to let the round get away from him, however, and he responded to seal the victory and a $10,000 purse on the par five No. 17, dropping a birdie to put him back at 20-under and dispel any thoughts of fading.<br /> <br /> "I hit two good shots on 17 and was able to two-putt for birdie," said Brown, who has led the NGA money list in previous seasons and won the same event previously in the 2011 Milton Martin Classic. "It felt great, and this is a big step for me."<br /> <br /> Brown -- who was competing in just his third tournament after corrective eye surgery -- had more than enough to see of Kizzire's 67, which left Kizzire tied with Winings in second place with a 271. James Erkenbeck and Paul Brown finished tied for fourth at 272.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Dawsonville's Blake Palmer capped an impressive tournament of his own with his best round of the tournament, firing a 4-under 68 to wind up ninth at 276. Other area competitors included Alto's Ryan Chitwood, who finished tied for 21st at 283, while Rodger Hogan finished tied for 34th (301) and amateur Jim Foote was 38th with a 305.<br /> <br /> "If you look at the top 15 guys today, nobody else as good as them will play this course the rest of the year," said Hogan, Chattahoochee director. "Brandon's got the game for the PGA -- the top 15 guys all have the game for the PGA -- they just have to get hot at the right time."<br /> <br /> Brown hopes that time is over the next couple of weeks, as he looks toward the Cutter Creek Classic June 19-22 in Snow Hill, N.C.<br /> <br /> "If I can play well there, I can get an exemption to the tour and hopefully play well there and start looking toward the PGA," Brown said.<br /> <br /> For now, however, Brown will take a week off to enjoy the win and go home to be with his family.<br /> <br /> "It's nice to take this back with me," Brown said. "This is definitely a nice place to come to, and I like the way this course sets up for me. Plus Gainesville reminds me of my hometown, and it kind of feels like home."<br /> <br /> Hogan hopes to continue making the course at Chattahoochee home for the NGA for years to come, though he is not certain if the tournament will stay in its current position on the calendar.<br /> <br /> "We'll see where it fits in," said Hogan, who, along with the NGA moved the tournament from its normal March schedule to June due to the inclement weather that had plagued the event over the past. "This was our fifth tournament and just the second time we were able to complete all four rounds.<br /> <br /> "It went really well this year; we had good weather for a change, and all the golfers I talked to told me they really liked the course."
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