Who is Nate Lashley? Bio for the late-blooming leader of the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic
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Who is Nate Lashley? Bio for the late-blooming leader of the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic

Nate Lashley carries a six-shot lead into the final round of the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic, the inaugural PGA Tour event in the city of Detroit. At 23-under total through 54 holes, Lashley could threaten to be the first player to go deeper than 30 under par on a non-par-73 course in PGA Tour history.

Lashley is 36 years old, and he's had conditional status on the PGA Tour this season. Coming into this week, Lashley had played in 14 events, including in qualifying for the US Open on his own, where he finished T-28. He has just one top-10 finish this year, a T-8 at the Puerto Rico Open in February -- his only top-10 finish in 32 career PGA Tour starts.

However, for the Nebraska native Lashley, his journey to the PGA Tour and being on the precipice of a life-changing PGA Tour win is a remarkable story.

A tragic plane crash killed his parents, girlfriend

As a rising junior at the University of Arizona, Lashley's parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash in Wyoming on their way home to Nebraska from watching him compete at the 2004 NCAA West Regional in Oregon.

"It was just shock," Lashley said to ESPN in 2017. "Shock and disbelief. It was a really tough time, especially that week with the funerals and the memorial service. I was just kind of out of it."

The tragedy affected his life, but it also made golf an escape and a release from the tragedy he's faced. He remained in Arizona after college and still lives in Scottsdale now.

Lashley is a late bloomer

Nate Lashley has won at every level -- mini-tours, PGA Tour Latinoamerica, Korn Ferry Tour -- but it has taken him a long time to get to this stage. In 2006, Lashley earned conditional status on what was then the Nationwide Tour. He missed the cut in 12 of 14 events, forcing him off the tour and into the world of mini-tours and local events in his native Arizona and around the country. He won on the Gateway Tour and it helped his experience.

He earned his was onto PGA Tour Latinaomerica in 2015, and a season later he won three times and was the Tour's player of the year winner. His season earned a place on the Korn Ferry Tour, where he won once in 2017 and finished third as part of five top-10 finishes. He wound up the season 13th on the money list and earned his way to the PGA Tour for the 2017-2018 season.

Lashley did not play well in his first season, making just eight cuts in 17 starts, playing himself quickly into the back end of the PGA Tour reshuffle. By the time it was June, Lashley was injured and couldn't play in other tournaments, having missed his first four cuts of the year and three in a row in the spring. Lashley finished 172nd in FedEx Cup points and was destined for the Korn Ferry Tour and partial status on the PGA Tour, getting in weaker fields.

Entering this week, Lashley was 132nd in FedEx Cup points and ranked 353rd in the Official World Golf Ranking. He tried to Monday qualify for this event but fell short of earning one of four spots. He then got in as the third alternate to this first event at Detroit Golf Club. He's been brilliant all week, including a Saturday 63 to open a six-shot edge going into Sunday.

What a win in Detroit means

With a win today, Lashley would become just the fourth alternate to win on the PGA Tour since 2005. It would earn him the benefits of being a PGA Tour winner, including berths into the British Open Championship in July, the Masters next April and the 2020 PGA Championship in San Francisco. He would gain fully exempt status for the remainder of this season and the next two after that. And, according to the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic payout, he would win $1.314 million to top it all off, nearly doubling his career earnings of $1.38 million.

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