Penner captures Sahalee crown in three-man playoff
SAMMAMISH – The old Kevin Penner surely would have flipped his lid and lost it.
He was the overnight leader at the 19th Sahalee Players Championship, and embraced the role as local hero because he had played Sahalee Country Club more than any golfer in the field.
And much of the final round Friday, he was hitting good shots – and losing ground to the field.
Just when it seemed like the tournament title was lost, Penner got a break when defending champion Chris Williams bogeyed the 18th hole of regulation to lose his one-shot advantage.
And in a three-man, sudden-death playoff, Penner netted the winning birdie on the first extra hole to capture his first Sahalee Players crown.
Penner (1-over-par 73), Williams (72) and California native Ben Geyer (66) all finished at 9-under 279 for four rounds.
And all three men were a little surprised to be in a playoff.
That is because Williams had just converted a testy 6-foot putt for par on the 17th hole, and maintained a one-stroke lead. The hard part was finished, he thought. All that remained was the easy uphill par-5 finishing hole heading back to the clubhouse.
But Williams’ drive landed up in the lip of left-side bunker. He had to muscle out a wedge shot to get back in the fairway. On his third shot, his ball landed in another bunker left of the hole, which he barely got out of. He chipped close, and made a 4-footer for bogey.
“I play that hole blindfolded (normally) and par it,” Williams said. “But I probably got in my own head a little bit.”
It was just a bizarre day altogether for the Idaho native, who was coming off a 10-shot victory at the Washington State Men’s Amateur last month.
He did not arrive at the course until five minutes before his 11:20 a.m. tee time, and hit his first tee shot with no warm-up swings. The reason? He was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding on the freeway.
“Nothing went right, really, from the time I got out of bed,” Williams said. “It just wasn’t a good day.”
In the playoff, which was at No. 18, Penner hit his second shot in the greenside bunker right of the hole. Williams was also right of the target, but in deep rough. And Geyer, the reigning West Coast Conference champion from Saint Mary’s, was just in front of the green in two shots.
Williams hit his third shot past the hole and missed the 21-foot putt for birdie. He was the first to be eliminated.
Penner’s bunker shot checked and slowly rolled past the hole. He canned the 6-footer for birdie.
“(Standing) over that putt, I knew I needed to make it. I didn’t think what it would do to (Geyer). I just wanted to get my read and hit a good putt, and I did that,” Penner said. “And I stepped back after and looked at my caddie and said, ‘That was a huge putt.’ ”
Geyer’s side-winding 41/2-foot putt to match Penner’s birdie stayed along the left edge of the hole, and missed – giving the UNLV standout his biggest amateur triumph.
“It feels good,” said Penner, who attended Eastlake High School. “There were a lot of people I saw out here that were ... local, so it was good to get the win for them and have them out here for that. I have always wanted to win this tournament.”
In the history of the tournament, no champion has repeated. ... The last golfer to win the Sahalee Players Championship in a playoff was Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley in 2006. ... Geyer had the day’s best score – a 6-under 66 – with six birdies and no bogeys. He finished with birdies at No. 17 (20-foot putt) and No. 18 (wedge shot out of deep rough to 6 feet, and made the putt). ... Seventeen-year-old Beau Hossler, from Mission Viejo, Calif., shot 71 to finish in sixth alone at 283. After playing in the U.S. Open and at last week’s PGA Tour stop at the AT&T National, he was noticeably worn out. “I am pretty tired,” Hossler said. “I want to go home and not play golf for about four days.” ... Williams and Penner both took a flight out today to Utah to play the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
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