We have all experienced this at one time or another… standing on the 18th tee knowing that all you need to do is make par on the last hole to win your match or the tournament. What went through your mind and how did you respond?
It does not matter whether you’re a professional playing the PGA TOUR, or an amateur competing in your Club Championship when you start thinking about what you need to score you will have the tendency to lose focus on the next shot at hand. At that point, the uncertainty and doubt in our human nature will raise its ugly head.
Suddenly, your lack of concentration creates an unclear target with the fairway now looking a bit narrower, the sand in the bunker becomes more inviting, the trees become larger or in most cases in Southern Arizona the desert insists on reaching out to touch your ball or the water hazard start’s calling your name. Does any of these impressions sound familiar to you?
It certainly rings true for this year’s eventual winner of the Southern Chapter PGA Championship during the final round at the Randolph North Golf Course on the difficult par-4 18th hole. In last year’s Championship at the Golf Club @ Vistoso in the final round, needing a birdie to get into a play-off, he made a quadruple bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. The winner of the Championship Dean Vomacka scored an eagle 3 for a six shot swing and one stroke victory over Brandon Smith.
When Mike Russell, Head Golf Professional at The Stone Canyon Club, stepped on the tee of the 18th hole with a two shot lead, the reality of winning this years Championship begin to set in. For a moment distracted with the dreadful thought of last year’s episode. Russell said, “The first thing that came to my mind when I came to the final tee was do not make a 9.” After collecting his thoughts, he took a 3-wood in the attempt to hit just one more fairway. However, he pulled his tee shot into the trees and with no options of going for the green, had to chip out to the fairway to avoid the same disastrous mistake he made last year.
In the meantime, his closest competitor Derek Deminsky from Forty-Niners Country Club hits it on the green to 25 feet from the hole for birdie and a chance to catch Russell for the lead. Russell chipped out safely to the fairway to give him an opportunity to save par with a good recovery shot. He hit his approach shot from 90 yards, leaving him with just 4-feet to salvage par and to capture the title. Deminsky knows if he makes the putt it will put the pressure squarely back on Russell to sink his putt. Deminsky takes his time lining up the putt knowing this is his last chance for victory. He stroked the putt looking up in time to see the ball just slide by the hole and eliminate any hope of winning. Now for the win Russell addresses the ball then calmly rolls it into the back of the hole.
Russell shot rounds of 67-68-68=230 finishing at 13-under par for a two stroke victory over Deminsky’s 67-68-70=205 11-under par. Russell said, “Derek played really well, and I just couldn’t shake him all day until the last hole. I am sure glad I played the percent shot this year chipping it out safely to have a chance to save my par. I couldn’t be happier winning our Chapter Championship. It really means a lot to me having my name on the trophy with all the past champions.”