Perseverance overcomes tragedy for pro golfer
By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican
Even if you weren’t a golf fan and happened to be watching the finale of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament Sunday, you couldn’t have helped yourself from rooting for Nebraska native Nate Lashley.
At 36, Lashley, who attended high school in Mitchell, overcame all of the odds to become only the fourth Nebraskan ever to win a PGA Tour event.
Lashley was a stand-out basketball player and golfer at Mitchell. He was what we call “a gamer.”
In 2001, he carried Mitchell’s basketball team to the top of Class C1 going into the district final at 20-1.
Despite scoring back-to-back treys in the final minute of that game, it was the Chase County Longhorns who held him to 18 points and kept the ball out of his hands in the closing seconds.
That win earned Chase County its first state basketball berth in 25 years.
Lashley left his mark on high school golf in Nebraska, as well. He led Mitchell to two Class C1 state tournament titles in both 2000 and 2001, finishing in first place himself both years.
Lashley pursued his golfing career, attending the University of Arizona. It was during those years that Lashley suffered the biggest loss of his life.
In 2004, his parents and his girlfriend flew the family’s private plane to watch him compete in a NCAA tournament event. On their way home, they crashed on the 13,780-foot Gannett Peak in Wyoming.
There were missing for three days before their bodies and the wreckage was found.
Not only did it rock his world but the communities of Mitchell and Scottsbluff, as well.
After graduating, he pursued a career in real estate in Arizona while jumping in and out of a golfing career.
He decided to give it one more try, joining the PGA Tour
Latinoamerica circuit in 2015. He played his way on to what was called the Web.com Tour two years later.
For 2018, he secured his playing rights on the PGA Tour. But his season was cut short by a knee injury.
Fast forward to this year. In February, he made a big move when he finished 8th in the Puerto Rico Open. In the next six weeks, he missed three cuts followed by three made cuts.
He qualified for the prestigious U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in mid-June, where he finished in a tie for 28th.
Despite his success, he still didn’t have full playing privileges on the tour. He was an alternate going into the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week. He competed in a qualifying round on Monday, but didn’t get it done. Then, on Wednesday, he found out he was the last alternate to make the tournament.
He broke out in a big way, shooting a 63 on the first day to lead the tournament. He followed that up with a 67 Friday to keep the lead. He backed it up with another 63 on Saturday to stay ahead of the field. At one point Sunday, he led by eight shots and won by six for his first victory on the tour.
His path to success is indeed a Cinderella story. His perseverance to put those dark days behind him is a lesson to us all.