FARMINGTON — In the 50th San Juan Open, it was a player making his first appearance that came out victorious.
Albuquerque professional Kent Jones fired a final round 68 to win the tournament by two strokes over a trio of golfers on Sunday at the San Juan Country Club.
"Today, my ball striking was exceptional. It carried me through, because my putting wasn't very good," Jones said. "I think I hit every green until the last green, so I had a lot of chances. The course was tough and the pins were brutal."
Jones, 47, was playing the event for the first time after hearing about the event from former University of New Mexico teammate and 1990 champion Scott Gates.
"He's my buddy back in college, and he's been trying to get me to come up," Jones said. "It hasn't worked out, because I'm usually playing somewhere in the summer. This time, I didn't have anything going on and I needed to get a tournament in."
The tournament rarely has fallen into the 1990 UNM graduate's schedule because of his PGA Tour commitment.
Jones regularly featured on the tour from 1998-2011 and has made 365 starts since 1996, finishing in the top 10 on 11 occasions and amassing just over $5.3 million in career earnings.
The tour veteran has also won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2001, and said he'll spend the rest of the summer trying to qualify for PGA Tour events.
"I've been trying to do more (PGA) Tour qualifying than Web(.com Tour) because there's not too much difference," Jones said of the difficulty in qualifying for the two tours' events.
Jones entered the day trailing Las Vegas, Nev., native Nick Killpack by two shots, but was able to take the lead early on the front nine after a couple birdies paired with some driving errors by the third-round leader.
"I just had a couple bad breaks there on the front nine," Killpack said. "I blame it on my tee ball. I putted well to shoot (72). If I'd have drove it like I had the last three days, I'd have been tough to beat. Kent hit better than any of us though, so he deserved it."
Killpack cut the Jones advantage to one stroke with a birdie on the par 4 12th hole coupled with a three putt by the leader.
A bogey by Killpack on the uphill par 3 13th hole and a tap-in birdie by Jones on the par 5 14th hole re-established the tour veteran's three-shot lead.
Killpack battled back with an eagle on the 525-yard 15th hole and could have cut Jones' lead to a stroke on 16th hole, but had his birdie putt slip just by the cup.
"It was a tricky putt, just so fast going down the hill and I couldn't read it," Killpack said. "I thought it was a right-edger, but you can't hit with any speed, and it didn't hold the line."
Jones was able to par his final three holes to secure the victory and $18,000 first-place check with a four-round total of 12-under par 273.
Killpack was joined by Jake Yonan-Wise and two-time champion Ryan Hogue at 10-under.
Nick Mason played with Killpack and Jones in the final group shot a round of even-par 72 to finish in fifth place at 9-under.
Nathan Lashley shot the low round on Sunday with a 67 to finish in seventh place at 6-under.
San Juan Country Club head professional Jeff Roth closed out his tournament with a 73 in the final round to finish in a tie for 15th place.
PGA tour veteran Notah Begay III shot finished in tie for 22nd place at 3-over par for the four-day event.
Santa Fe resident Marty Sanchez, who recently finished his freshman year at New Mexico Junior College, was the only amateur to make the cut and carded a final round of 79 to finish with a four-round total of 9-over.