The sixth sudden-death playoff since the University Hospital-Utah Open came to Willow Creek Country Club 13 years ago ended with a wimper Sunday afternoon as Warren Schutte defeated Kevin Sutherland with a bogey.
But what a bogey it was.After driving in the trees on the right side of the No. 10 fairway, Schutte's second shot stayed in the trees down the right side, his ball stopping about five yards short of a clump of scrub oak, 140 yards from the hole.
Schutte had three options.
He could try to lob a shot over the trees and perhaps land halfway to the green. He could chip out sideways onto the fairway, leaving himself a long fourth shot. Or he could try to hit through the trees.
The big South African thought about it for just a few seconds before choosing option No. 3. It was a do or die try. A few inches high or low or left or right would mean disaster and the likely end of the tournament for him.
He rifled a 6-iron through an opening no bigger than a breadbox and the ball scooted along the fairway stopping just short of the green. The pressure was now on Sutherland, who knocked his fourth shot under a pine tree left of the green. After that, Schutte chipped to within five feet and just needed two putts for the anticlimactic win.
"Sometimes you need to pull off a shot like that to win a tournament," said Schutte, who finished with an even-par 72 Sunday for a 206 total in the 54-hole tourney. The $20,000 winner's check was the largest of his young pro career.
Schutte has been in a slump for the past year after previously finding success as the NCAA individual champion for UNLV and the U.S. Publinks champion. He's played in the Masters and U.S. Open and a few other PGA events, but has done little since winning $11,000 at last year's Buick Open.
"This victory couldn't have come at a better time for me," said Schutte, who failed at last year's PGA qualifying school and has spent a lot of time this summer watching fellow South Africans Nick Price and Ernie Els win major golf tournaments on TV.
The last few weeks Schutte also has been worried about his father who underwent treatment for cancer this summer, including the removal of a lung. Tommy Schutte followed his son in a golf cart the past two days and proved to be an inspiration.
"It was awesome," said young Schutte. "I haven't played well for awhile and in a way, having him here kept me going."
Going into Sunday's final round, Schutte held a two-stroke advantage over Brandt Jobe, but for most of the day he was chasing the lead. That's because Sutherland came out hot making long birdies on his first two holes and two more before the turn to go to four-under on the day and 11-under overall.
Sutherland, a 30-year-old former Fresno State golfer, arrived at the first tee Sunday without a caddy and asked tournament director Dick Alexander for some help. Mark Madsen, a local attorney was standing nearby and piped up, "I'll do it," and Sutherland was on his way.
He sank a 30-foot putt on the first hole and chipped in from 70 feet on No. 2. He birdied again at No. 4 and then sank a 45-footer at No. 7.
That put him one up on Schutte, but the lead grew to three after Schutte bogeyed 10 and 12, a couple of birdie-able par-5s. "I was really struggling," said Schutte.
The turning point came at the par-4 13th. Sutherland hit his drive under a large bush on the left side and had to punch out sideways. He eventually had to settle for bogey. Meanwhile, Schutte slapped a wedge within five feet and sank the putt for a birdie to cut the margin to one.
Sutherland again had to hit out sideways from under a tree at 16 and again made bogey. That left Sutherland in a three-way tie with Schutte and Jobe, the other member of the threesome, who birdied at 12 and 14 to go to 9-under.
At the par-5 17th, Jobe made a poor chip from the rough near the green and only managed a par. Schutte just missed an eagle putt and tapped in for a birdie. Sutherland then sank a 15-foot birdie to stay tied with Schutte.
At the final hole, Schutte had the best chance to win, but his 10-footer just missed after Sutherland's 20-footer came up short. Jobe could have tied, but just slid his 15-footer by the hole. "I was happy about being in the playoff, but it turned out to be a nightmare," said Sutherland of his ordeal which saw him hit three of his first four shots into the trees.
Schutte hopes the magic of winning the Utah Open rubs off on him as it has for four of the past five champions, who have gone on to qualify for the PGA Tour.
"That makes me feel good," said Schutte, about the success of guys like Grant Waite and Dennis Paulson, the past two Utah Open winners.
Former Utah Open champ Perry Arthur and Monte Montgomery tied for fourth at 209, while Jeb Stuart and Jack Steinicke were another stroke back at 210. Utahns Chris Jones, Ryan Rhees, Dave DeSantis were in a group of seven at 211 that included ex-BYU golfer Eric Rustand. Tom Stankowski had the best round Sunday, a 65, to finish at 212 along with Mike Malaska.
Heber's Joseph Summerhays, who plays for BYU won a playoff with Steve Campbell and Jon Wright for low amateur honors after all three finished at 220.
Utah Open par scores
SANDY - The top 20 finishers of the 54-hole University Hospital-Utah Open golf tournament, which concluded Sunday at the par-72 at Willow Creek Country Club.
*Warren Schutte 66-68-72-206
Kevin Sutherland 69-68-69-206
Brandt Jobe 68-68-71-207
Perry Arthur 66-73-70-209
Monte Montgomery 72-69-68-209
Jeb Stuart 70-72-68-210
Jack Steinicke 70-72-68-210
John Stacey 71-67-73-211
Chris Jones 70-69-72-211
Ryan Rhees 70-68-73-211
Dave DeSantis 71-70-70-211
Eric Rustand 67-72-72-211
Craig Reed 65-77-69-211
Jonathan Kaye 70-67-74-211
Mike Malaska 68-73-71-212
Tom Stankowski 74-73-65-212
Trev Anderson 73-73-67-213
Aaron Meeks 70-71-72-213
Ray Cragun 73-71-69-213
Gary Blevens 71-73-69-213
*-Won in playoff.