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Inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic champ Nate Lashley gives one last 'heartfelt' thanks to Detroit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Nate Lashley wasn't in a hurry to leave town. You can hardly blame the man, $1.3 million richer after a stunning and dominant performance in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

Nate Lashley holds the trophy after winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

After he fulfilled more than a hour's worth of media obligations Sunday evening, he gathered friends and family and held an impromptu beer bash on the back patio of the historic Albert Khan clubhouse. Then he was set to shift hotels, from a northern suburb to downtown Detroit, for one final celebration following the 36-year-old's breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour.

On Monday night, Lashley thanked Detroit one more time.

"Thank you ... for an amazing week in Detroit!" Lashley posted on Twitter and Instagram. "I can’t thank the fans enough for your support, it was a truly heartfelt week. It’s been a long journey to get to this point."

Lashley stormed through four rounds of golf at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, with a pair of 63s. He made three bogeys all week and finished 25 under par, six shots clear of the next-closest competitor.

It was a touching story, given his travails in professional golf (he once gave it up) and in life (he lost his parents and girlfriend in a plane crash). The narrative all week was Detroit's comeback, and on that front, Lashley is a fitting first champion.

He's a shy guy who doesn't use more words than he has to. It took him a bit to get used to all the adulation from the fans, as it became clear early in the week, especially after that opening-round 63, that he would be one to watch.

On Saturday, his caddie, Ricky Romano, even urged Lashley to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

"These fans love you Nate," Romano said he told Lashley walking down the first fairway Saturday. "Just acknowledge them and have fun with them."

Lashley grew up in Nebraska and is a big fan of the Cornhuskers, especially football. He went on to play collegiately at the University of Arizona, before settling into a home in Scottsdale, where he still lives.

But Lashley will now always have a connection to Detroit, as the first winner of an event Quicken Loans officials hopes is here for decades to come, not unlike the Buick Open, which had a 50-year run in suburban Flint.

He'll certainly be back next year to defend his championship, and from the sound of it, there are many more trips to Detroit in his future.

"Love the place," said Lashley, who made sure to enjoy his stay all week, even spending a couple nights with a pal, Ted, who lives in Plymouth. "Look forward to coming back."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984