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Kevin Chappell Wins Fresh Express Classic


Kevin Chappell hit the number and it paid off like a winning lottery ticket at the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae. Chappell posted a 6-under 65 in the final round Sunday and earned his first career title, beating Canadian David Hearn by one stroke and collecting $108,000 in the process.

The win moved Chappell to No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour money list through six of 28 events on the 2010 schedule.  Chappelll walked off the 13th green in Saturday's third round and put a number in his head that he thought he needed to get to in order to have a chance to win the tournament. The Fresno native had just stumbled to a bogey, dropped to 13 under and fell out of a share of the lead with Hearn.

"I put a number in my head at that point," said the Fresno native. "I just wouldn't tell anybody what it was."

It turned out that Chappell's magic number was 20, as in 20 under, which is exactly where he finished after calmly tapping in for par on the final hole and collecting his first win since he captured a one-day, mini-tour event in Boise, Idaho, in 2008.

"It's been a long time coming," said the 23-year old. "It's a surreal feeling but it's one I could use to."

"I knew I had to get off to a quick start because the back nine plays a lot tougher," he said. "Getting those birdies early just kick-started me."

Chappell ran off six birdies on the front and made the turn at 19 under, one up on Hearn. The rest of the field was making plenty of birdies too, but they were too far behind to challenge for the lead. Several came close but the outcome would be decided by the final twosome.

"I didn't know if anyone was making a move. I didn't hear any roars out there but you never know," he said. "I knew we were playing pretty good and I thought if I could beat him (Hearn) I thought I'd have a pretty good chance."

Chappell and Hearn were in the final pairing and much of the back nine felt like match play between the two. Chappell led but Hearn tied it up with a birdie at No. 11. Hearn bogeyed No. 13 to fall one back. The pair switched places when Hearn birdied No. 14 and Chappell made bogey.

"It was almost calming to make bogey there and give up the lead," said Chappell. "I knew I could play well coming from behind."

Chappell birdied No. 15 to regain a share of the lead and Hearn's bogey at No. 16 left him one back. Chappell rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 17 to put him at 20 under and two up with one to go.

"I thought 18 was going to be a walk in the park after that," he said.

Hearn refused to give in. His second shot at the uphill, 438-yard hole nearly spun into the cup before settling within inches, leaving him a tap-in to get within one.

"We couldn't see it but I thought he holed it," said Chappell. "There was a loud roar but it wasn't a 'holed it' roar. I kept telling myself to finish the race. The day wasn't over. I wasn't going to be done until I putted out."

Chappell's 8-iron from 178 yards climbed over a front bunker and left him 25 feet short of the flag.

"I wanted to hit 9-iron there but my caddie Brandon wouldn't let me," he said. "I thought an 8-iron would put me in the bleachers."

Chappell calmed his nerves, rolled his birdie putt to within six inches of the hole and tapped in the winning putt.

"Kevin is fearless, which I guess you are when you are only 23," said Hearn, 30, who was looking for his first win since the 2004 Alberta Classic. "On 18, he did what do with a two-shot lead on the last hole."

When all was said and done, Chappell finally confessed his winning prediction.

"At the beginning of the week I didn't think 20-under would win this tournament," he said. "I thought it might be closer to 2-under."

Good thing he didn't bet on that number.

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