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Rookie talk

Understanding Ernst: Rookies who Win PGA Tournaments

Rookies and qualifiers dot every field of every tournament during the PGA Tour season, but few ever have the kind of impact that Derek Ernst did last week when he won the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina.

It was just the ninth tournament of the 22-year-old UNLV graduate's career, and unbelievably he didn't even realize he was going to play it until the day before. As the fourth alternate, Ernst had to wait until an entire foursome of players dropped out for one reason or another before he got the official call.

Not only does the win qualify Ernst for the bigger tournaments automatically, but it gives him a two-year membership on the tour, meaning financial success just got a whole lot easier.

While Ernst's win in just his ninth event is remarkable, it can't compare with four men who remain forever tied for first in the record category that can never be broken - those who have won a tournament in their professional debut on the PGA Tour.
Here's a look at the four prestigious members of this class.

Marty Fleckman, 1967: One of the greatest pedigrees ever by an amateur, Fleckman won an NCAA title at the University of Houston and was a three-time all-American. As an amateur in 1967, he led the US Open after three rounds, ultimately losing the title to Jack Nickalus. He went pro in 1967 and won the Cajun Classic Open Invitational - his first-ever tourney. In an interesting side note, the Cajun Classic is also the site of the only occurrence of a man over 50 earning his first tour win. This was accompl ished by 51-year-old John Barnum in 1962.

Ben Crenshaw, 1973: The three-time NCAA champion at the University of Texas, Crenshaw has two majors and wins in three different decades.,But things didn't come any sweeter than when he fired a 14-under 270 (65-72-66-67) at the San Antonio Texas Open on November 4 in his pro debut, defeating 40-year-old Orville Graves by two strokes.

Robert Gamez, 1989: Gamez not only won his first-ever PGA event, he won his second a little more than two months later. The University of Arizona standout won the Tucson Open by four strokes with an 18-under 270 (65-66-69-70), dominating the field and taking a four-stroke victory over seasoned pros Jay Haas and Mark Calcavecchia. His second win was even better as he beat Greg Norman by one stroke at the Nestle Invitational courtesy of him putting the ball into the hole from 176 yards away with a six-iron.

Garrett Willis, 2001: Like Gamez, there was heat in the desert for Willis, who won the Tucson Open. He edged Kevin Sutherland by one stroke by firing a 15-under (71-69-64=69).

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