After losing it, Stadler wins
Stadler, 22, walked away with a $22,500 check, four days after he declared the end to his amateur status on the first tee. It more than paid off.
“It’s the first time I’ve won anything major in a long time,” said Stadler, who played four winless years for the University of Southern California. “I liked this golf course. And I’d been playing well all summer. I thought I had a decent chance.”
Although he led at the end of all four days, Stadler, the son of 12-time PGA tour winner Craig Stadler, was in third for most of the topsy-turvy final round. Former PGA professional Gary Hallberg, of Castle Rock, and Buy.Com pro Brian Kortan, of New Mexico, both reached 10-under-par before folding late. Kortan missed a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole for par that would have won him the tournament.
Instead, the first-ever three-way playoff at the Open ensued.
“I was down in the dumps for a little bit,” Stadler said, shaking his head. The long-hitting, goatee-sporting champ led by as much as five strokes in the tournament, before bogeys at No. 1 and No. 5 allowed Hallberg and Kortan, who both birdied three of the first four holes, to take their turn on top of the leaderboard.
It wasn’t any more kind for them.
Kortan held a one-shot lead until No. 14, when he let a 5-foot par putt slide just past the hole. Kortan fell to 8-under when his second shot on No. 15 ended up in the pond. The 8-footer for bogey he sank ended up being the biggest putt he made all tournament. The one that wouldn’t drop on No. 18 was his biggest miss.
“I knew I controlled my destiny,” said Kortan, who still walked away with $10,500. “It wasn’t like I played real well. I screwed up several shots.”
Hallberg, meanwhile, birdied the 13th and held a one-stroke lead when an errant chip on No. 15 dropped him down another stroke. On the 17th, he missed a 7-footer for par. Stadler had birdied the difficult 16th as it became more and more evident the tournament might have its first three-way tie at the end of regulation.
When Hallberg nailed an 8-footer on the 18th, it was all but certain.
“We had it going,” said Hallberg, whose 67 on Sunday was his best round of the tournament. “I wasn’t very good at getting up and down all week. But it’s fun to be in contention. I think we all had a chance and then threw it away.”
The trio headed to the 18th again for the playoff hole. All three found the fairway, which meant all three would be gunning for the green in two.
But only Stadler succeeded. With Hallberg in the front sand trap, Stadler boomed a 276-yard 3-wood that stuck 15-feet from the green. Kortan, a left hander, had an impossible shot to the green. He deposited it in the back bunker.
Hallberg and Kortan couldn’t get up and down, leaving Stadler with a testy line down the hill. He tapped it, let gravity take over, and watched it curl inches from the cup.
The win, after watching it all but slip away, was finally his.
“In honesty, it helped I played here a number of times,” Stadler said. He competed in last year’s Open as an amateur. “I’ve played so much golf this year, this seemed like just another tournament.”
It didn’t stay that way for long. Stadler opened up with a 65 on Thursday and a two-stroke lead. His father, toting his son’s bag the entire tournament, had the best seat to watch everything unfold. The memories of his beginning returned.
“I was just thinking yesterday, I remembered my first state open in California,” Craig Stadler said. “I was happy. And I think I missed the cut by three.”
While not everything was like-father-like-son, the duo will be playing together this week in the Swiss Open, neither one carrying a bag. This week was a rare opportunity. A start of one career for the son, a proud father winding up his own.
NOTES: Arvada’s Michael Glaesel won the amateur title, beating Edwards’ Mitch Perry by two strokes… Parker’s Scott Petersen started and ended the day two strokes behind after shooting a 73… John Sosa, of Austin, Texas, the last qualifier invited into the tournament, finished 12th and took home $2,566.67… Utah’s James Blair, the all-time leading money winner for the Open, finished 23rd.