On a day when it seemed that nobody wanted to win the Burton Lumber Salt Lake City Open, St. George pro Nick McKinlay was more than happy to step up and take it.
Playing several groups ahead of the leaders, the 29-year-old McKinlay shot an uneventful 69 Sunday at Wingpointe Golf Course, which was good enough for a tie for first at 139 with Riverside Country Club pro Chris Moody. Then on the first playoff hole, McKinlay beat Moody with a bogey to claim the $3,500 first prize.
Six players — pro Ryan Rhees and amateurs Zach Johnson, Greg Buckway, Scott Clark, Jeff Jolley and Herb Lyons — tied for third at 140 and each had his chance to win what is one of the state's top golf tournaments. But McKinlay outlasted them all with his steady play to earn the largest paycheck of his life.
"I'm still in shock," he said. "I can't believe that score would get me in a playoff. I never thought that would be close."
After shooting an opening-round 70 Saturday at Bonneville Golf Course, McKinlay started off with a 36 on the front nine at Wingpointe and at 2-under-par he was behind at least a half dozen other golfers. But he kept plugging away, making six pars and three birdies, at No. 12 when he hit a wedge within a foot and routine birds at the par-5 15th and 16th holes.
When he got to the clubhouse he saw the scores weren't that low, but he knew there were still 12 golfers on the course behind him who had shot better scores or the same as him the day before. But each of them found a way to falter.
Rhees, the head pro at Eaglewood, was 5-under for the tournament when he hit his drive into the dry lake bed at No. 15 and took two shots to get out. He ended up making bogey where most golfers made birdie. He did make birdie at No. 16 and lipped out a birdie putt on 17 and had a chance to get in the playoff. But his 5-foot par putt at 18 rimmed the cup.
Buckway, the reigning Utah Open champ, was 6-under after making consecutive birdies at 15 and 16. But his tee shot a the par-3 17th flew the green into the deep rough and was lost. The two-stroke penalty dropped him to 4-under.
Johnson missed 3-foot putts at both 16 and 17, while Lyons made a key bogey at 17.
Moody had the best chance to win, standing 6-under on the No. 18 tee. But his tee shot went long and too far to the left, barely into the hazard. He took a penalty and hit his third shot within 12 feet, but missed the putt and made bogey.
On the playoff hole, Moody hit his tee shot right, into the water, leaving the door wide open for McKinlay. But McKinlay's approach shot caught the bunker and was plugged.
However, after Moody's chip from the edge of the green went 30 feet past, all McKinlay had to do was get his ball out of the bunker and two-putt for the victory.
"I haven't played here enough," said Moody. "I thought I was 350 yards away from the water (on 18) and I pulled it a hair. Then in the playoff I had no confidence and hit a big slice. That's the way it goes."
McKinlay acknowledged that he was fortunate to get his score in ahead of the players behind him.
"The pressure definitely wasn't on me," he said. " I didn't have the lead to lose."
First-day leader Dan Horner finished at 141 after a 74 to tie with Roy Christensen. Matt Johnson and amateur Stuart Gold were another stroke back at 142.
Thom Wright was the A Flight gross winner at 140, while David Compton and Eric Johnson tied for A Flight net honors. Tom Christensen was the B Flight gross winner and Joe O'Keefe the B Flight net winner.