DETROIT — Roughly five years ago, Nate Lashley was a real estate agent, flipping houses to make money, not knowing if professional golf would ever be a part of his life. Now, after a commanding win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Lashley is a PGA Tour champion for the first time in his life.
“I thought I was pretty much done with golf,” Lashley said of his time flipping houses. “You know, I always felt like I had the talent and ability to play out there, and it was just a matter of getting out here and getting comfortable. It’s not an easy thing to do, by no means, but take some time and I feel like I’m finally there.”
He is finally at the top, and it hasn’t come easy for Lashley, who initially wasn’t even in the original field for the event. As an alternate, Lashley was added as the last man in when he heard the news of multiple withdrawals Wednesday before the tournament started.
Dealing with the stress of not getting into the tournament, then finding out at the last minute that he would indeed be part of the field, Lashley had little time to get in the right frame of mind.
“On Tuesday, when I found out I was first alternate and then we had a good idea that I was going to get in, that there was going to be one more withdraw,” Lashley said. “I was just really happy. Really, I just felt like I really needed to be in the tournament because I was playing really well.”
Before gaining a spot in this tournament and before earning his tour card in 2017, Lashley suffered tragedy while playing for the University of Arizona in the 2004 NCAA Regional in Oregon.
His parents, Rod and Char, and girlfriend, Leslie Hofmeister, flew to Oregon to watch Lashley play. On the flight back to their home state of Nebraska, Lashley’s parents and Hofmeister were killed in a plane crash. Lashley had to play through the devastation, and while he says golf was a release for him while dealing with the loss, he also concedes he wasn’t initially ready to be a professional golfer in such a short time after the crash.
To this day, Lashley says the tragic event stays close and never really leaves his thoughts, even while on the course and trying to win his first PGA tournament.
“Yeah, it definitely crosses your mind,” He said. “It came through my mind at one point [Saturday]. At some points it’s not easy, but it goes through your mind and it’s something that’s always going to be there for me.”
He shot a 63 on Saturday, while thinking of his parents and girlfriend, and after a round on Sunday to keep him atop the leaderboard, Lashley can validate those thoughts he had as a real estate agent, that he is a good enough player and has the skill to make it as a professional golfer.
After loss, hardship and fighting to make it this far, Lashley is going to allow himself to enjoy the win and a well-earned celebration now as a champion.
“It’s a little stressful trying to get your first win, and also I’m 132nd on the FedEXCup, so a good finish goes a long way here,” Lashley said Saturday. “I can’t really say I’m having a whole lot of fun because I’m pretty focused out there and a little nervous at the same time. But, you know, I’ll save the fun for after the tournament.”