SILVIS, Ill. (AP) – If anyone ever deserved this victory, it was Sean O’Hair.

He shot a 6-under-par 65 on Sunday, holding off J.L. Lewis and Hank Kuehne to win the John Deere Classic for his first career victory. The rookie, who turns 23 on Monday and was making only his 18th career start, finished with a 16-under 268.

So steady all day, O’Hair made things interesting at the end. After a birdie on 17, he had to scramble on 18 after nearly putting his ball in the water. With the ball on the hazard line, O’Hair chipped within 10 feet to make par.

Then he had to wait.

Kuehne and Lewis were two holes behind him, and both were at 15 under after 17. If either made birdie on 18, it was going to a playoff. Lewis folded first, putting his second shot in the water. Kuehne had a 24-footer for birdie, but he left it about 2 feet short, sealing the win for O’Hair.

Waiting by the scorer’s trailer, O’Hair hugged his wife, Jackie, who had followed him the entire day with their 5-month-old daughter. The victory also earned O’Hair a spot in next week’s British Open at St. Andrews, but he said he wasn’t sure yet if he was going to go.

Kuehne (68) and Robert Damron (67) finished one stroke behind O’Hair at 269. Lewis (72), defending champion Mark Hensby (64) and Wes Short (66) were at 270.

The tournament had lost much of its buzz after 15-year-old Michelle Wie botched two of her last four holes Friday to miss the cut by two strokes. But some of the electricity was back late Sunday with O’Hair, a one-time prodigy with a story of his own.

O’Hair may look like he’s still in high school, but his personality and game are well beyond his years, forged by a childhood that was, at best, difficult. His father, Marc, pushed him relentlessly, getting him up to run every day at 5 a.m., and putting him on the course from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For every bogey on his scorecard, his father made him run a mile. He was pushed to turn pro even before he graduated from high school.

“What am I supposed to do – say, Oh, Seany boy, you don’t have to get up early today?’ The military, they know how to build a champion,” Marc O’Hair told The Orlando Sentinel in December. “Somebody who slacks off, that’s a loser. The typical high school kid is hanging out at the mall. That’s a loser.”

O’Hair stopped speaking to his father two years ago. He found love with Jackie, who had played at Florida Atlantic, and a life with her and her family.

Jackie and their daughter travel with him, and his father-in-law, Steve Lucas, is his caddie. The stability has helped him realize the promise his father saw. He’d already had three top-25 finishes in his first year on the tour, including runner-up at the Byron Nelson Championship, before coming to the TPC at Deere Run.

He played under par the entire week, saving his best round for Sunday.

Lewis had been the second- and third-round leader, and said he knew he’d have to make five or six birdies to stay in the spot Sunday. He didn’t come anywhere close, and the leaderboard was constantly changing as just about everyone on the course tried to make a run at him.

Kuehne and Matt Kuchar were up there for a bit. So was Short. Hensby, too. But the only one with any staying power was O’Hair.

He moved into contention with a 3-under 32 on the front nine, and anytime he looked like he was in trouble, he found a way out. On the par-5 10th, his second shot landed in a trap on the left side of the hole, as far away from the pin as he could get while still being on the same hole. But he blasted out within four feet, and knocked it in for a birdie.

Another birdie on 14 got him to 15 under and put him atop the leaderboard, a stroke ahead of Lewis. A good showing on the par-5 17th, and he could all but put the tournament away.

His second shot went into a trap on the right side of the green. While Jackie O’Hair watched from behind the hole, nervously pulling on her necklace, O’Hair made one of the best shots of the day, blasting out to within 2 feet.

But Lewis and Kuehne matched him, setting up the drama on 18.

Divots: O’Hair is the 17th first-time winner in the Deere Classic’s 35 years. … Kuchar aced the par-3, 188-yard No. 7, putting the ball in the hole on the fly. … O’Hair didn’t make a bogey in the last 60 holes.

AP-ES-07-10-05 1635EDT

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