(Reuters) – Lanto Griffin will be known for more than his unusual name after winning the Houston Open by one stroke on Sunday.
Griffin, a self-described son of hippies who was named after a spiritual master, shed tears of happiness upon sinking a six-foot par putt to clinch his breakthrough victory at Golf Club of Houston.
“I felt eerily calm. I don’t know why,” he said in a greenside interview after carding three-under-par 69 to edge fellow Americans Scott Harrington and Mark Hubbard by one stroke.
Griffin, 31, is no spring chicken but was making only his 33rd start on the PGA Tour.
He finished at 14-under 274 and now leads the early FedEx Cup points list and has the job security that comes with a two-year exemption.
“I just knew if I make bogey I have a job out here next year,” he said of the final hole, where his first putt from 60 feet drifted well beyond the cup, leaving a testing one coming back for the win.
“I’m just so relieved it’s over. I played really solid. I’m so proud of the way I hung in there.
“Putter let me down a little bit on the back nine but my iron shots were pretty darn good. It’s pretty surreal.”
Griffin was born in California but grew up in Virginia, of modest financial means. Raised a strict vegetarian, he took up golf at age eight, and subsequently threw himself into the game after his father was diagnosed with an ultimately fatal brain tumour.
Griffin’s mother is still alive, and he promised to buy her a new car if he won on Sunday. With prize money of $1,350,000 it should not be a problem.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Stephen Coates)