GREENSBORO — J.T. Poston kept his head down, stayed within himself and never flinched on his way to the Wyndham Championship title Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club.
Poston, a native of Hickory, shot an 8-under 62 to win by 1 stroke over Webb Simpson, a Raleigh native now living in Charlotte and the highest-ranked golfer in the field.
Poston’s four-round total of 22-under tied the tournament record, and he also accomplished something that hasn’t been done by a PGA Tour winner since 1974 — going 72 holes without a bogey in a stroke-play event. Lee Trevino last did that in New Orleans.
“I’ve always dreamed that I could win out here, and I felt like I kind of proved that,” Poston said about his first PGA Tour win. “I gave myself some chances over the years. But to be able to do it here in North Carolina with a lot of friends and family, I don’t think I could have drawn it up any better.”
Poston continued to hang around the leaderboard all week, and because of that more alumni and fans of Western Carolina kept coming out in droves.
The contingent of Catamount fans were vocal, supportive and added an advantage that Poston, a 2015 graduate of Western Carolina, seemed to thrive on.
“I’d like to thank the Western Carolina fans who came out,” Poston said in his post-round comments on the 18th green after receiving his check for a little more than $1 million along with the Sam Sneed Cup. “You guys really helped me along.”
Poston’s birdie on 15 when he made a beautiful up and down from the bunker on the par-5 got him to 22-under. Pars on 16, 17 and 18 gave him the clubhouse lead, but he had to wait out Byeong “Ben” Hun An, who had a long birdie putt on 18 that would have tied him.
An three-putted for bogey and, when Simpson birdied 18, he jumped into second place. It was good enough to move Simpson into the top 10 in the season-ending Wyndham Rewards bonus.
Poston’s caddie, Aaron Flener, who has worked with Poston for the last 14 months, shook his head in disbelief about how poised Poston was all week.
“It was unbelievable how dialed in he was,” Fleener said. “I would tell him three or four feet to the right of the pin and that’s exactly where he hit it. He never wavered or let the moment get to him.”
Watching from outside the ropes was Poston’s 85-year-old grandfather, Doc Cunningham, who lives in Hickory.
He couldn’t help but tear up when asked about the early days of his grandson’s time on the course.
“Both of his parents had to work, so I was the driver,” Cunningham said about Poston’s junior golf. “This is an incredible moment for our family and for Hickory. We are so proud of him.”
Poston said his grandfather, an accomplished amateur golfer who has shot his age more than 600 times, introduced him to the game by sawing down a persimmon Hogan 5-wood when Poston was 3 years old.
“We actually still have that club somewhere,” said Poston, a graduate of Hickory High School, where he won two state championships.
Poston, who won six times during his career at Western Carolina, including two Southern Conference championships, graduated from Western Carolina in 2015 with a degree in finance.
He turned pro shortly after graduation, and after a year on the Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) he made it to the PGA Tour.
Among those here making sure that Poston had support was his swing coach, John McNeely, the director of golf at Diamond Creek in Banner Elk, as well as two of his coaches from Poston’s Western Carolina days.
Gorham Bradley and Bryant Odom all had a hand in coaching Poston from 2011 through 2015. Both were in the crowd that followed Poston as well as current Western Carolina coach Tim Eckberg.
Also helping get Poston to Western Carolina was Carter Cheves, another former coach.
“This is a big day, no question about it,” Eckberg said. “This does so much for our university, and to have Gorham and Bryant here really makes this that much better. The J.T. impact for us will carry on in a big way.”
Bradley, who helped recruit Poston to Western Carolina, said it was a perfect fit and that Odom, who coached Poston in his senior year, made a difference.
“In his senior year at regionals at (UNC’s Finley Golf Course) we needed a birdie on the last hole to get into the NCAA’s, and J.T. said he would do it,” Odom said. “And he makes that birdie putt and we go to the NCAA’s. It was unreal.”
His performance this week was also unreal. Poston became the fifth North Carolina native to win the tournament in the 80-year history following Raymond Floyd, Scott Hoch, Davis Love and Simpson.
Poston, who came into the tournament ranked 164th in the world, has moved up to 27th on the FedEx Cup points list. He hasn’t thought much about the two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, or the fact that he’ll get to play in his first Masters next year.
About the only thing he was concerned about Sunday night was how he was going to celebrate.
“I’ve never done this before, so we’re going to have to figure it out,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a couple Coors Lights.”