SAMMAMISH, Wash. (July 6, 2012) -- Kevin Penner of Las Vegas, Nev. birdied the 72nd hole to get into a three-way playoff with Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho and Ben Geyer of Arbuckle, Calif., then birdied the first playoff hole to win the 19th Sahalee Players Championship (SPC), held at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.
The three competitors played the 535-yard 18th hole in the playoff and all three were on the green in regulation. After Williams missed his 21-foot birdie attempt, Penner sank his 6-footer for birdie to put the pressure on Geyer, who saw his 4-foot try slide by the hole. This is the first playoff in the championship since Kyle Stanley won a four-way playoff in 2006.
Playing in the final group of the day with Williams and standing on the tee of the 535-yard par-5 18th tee during regulation, Penner was two shots behind leader Williams and a shot behind Ben Geyer, who was in the clubhouse at 9-under-par for the tournament after firing a blistering final round 6-under-par 66. "It was pretty clear what I had to do," said Penner afterward. The big-hitting Sammamish-native hit his tee shot 40 yards past his playing partners, then rifled a long-iron from 210 yards to the center of the green and two-putted for a birdie and the tie.
Meanwhile, Penner watched as Williams pulled his own drive into the left fairway bunker. "That was probably my worst shot of the week," said Williams. His ball was under the lip of the bunker, and he had to blast out with a wedge, leaving himself 210 yards for his third shot, which he then pulled into the left greenside bunker. "I mucked the hole up," he said, eventually making bogey to fall into a tie with Geyer and Penner.
"I didn't expect Williams to bogey that hole," said Penner later. "I really thought I needed to eagle it. It was a weird round for me. I felt in control of my game, but nothing really was happening."
Penner had a large following in the gallery. He had attended nearby Eastlake High School, and Sahalee had been the home course for his golf team. "Yes, Chris was defending his title, but my friends were telling me that I was defending my turf." It was a full-circle victory for Penner, who volunteered as a walking scorer at the 2006 SPC for eventual champion Kyle Stanley. "I always wanted to play in this tournament, and I always wanted to win this tournament." When asked if this is the biggest win of his young career, he said, "Absolutely. Definitely the biggest win for me." (Watch Penner's interview here.)
Penner will be a senior at UNLV and now resides in Las Vegas, but he grew up in Sammamish, Wash., just down the road from Sahalee. This is the fourth SPC he has competed in. He tied for fourth in the championship last year. He graduated in 2009 from nearby Eastlake High School, where he twice was the 4A Washington state high school champion (2007, '09) and was named the 2008 Washington Junior Golf Association Player of the Year. He recently earned honorable mention All-American honors at UNLV and was named to the 2012 PING Division I All-America Team.
Williams had started the day one shot behind Penner, and got off to a rough start. "Nothing went right from the beginning," said Williams. He arrived at the course just minutes before his tee time. "I overcooked my eggs this morning at breakfast, and wasn't happy about that. Then got pulled over for speeding on the way here, and I wasn't happy about that either." Hitting driver off the first tee without benefit of warming up, he pushed his tee shot into the trees, but still managed to drop a 40-foot putt to save par. Williams managed to hold it together in the final round and found himself with a one stroke lead after 71 holes but could not avoid the playoff. (Watch this group tee off the first tee of the final round.)
Geyer, a 20-year-old native from Arbuckle, Calif. and soon-to-be senior at St. Mary's University made quite the splash in his first SPC despite starting the day seven shots behind leader, Penner. His bogey-free, final round 66 tied for low round of the tournament. "I really had it going early," he said. "I played consistent all week, hitting a lot of greens, and today I had a lot of good looks at putts." Geyer hit 16 greens in today's final round. About his missed birdie putt in the playoff hole, he said, "I had a tendency to miss (my putts) right, so I over-corrected a little and pulled it left."
Penner joins the list of SPC past champions that include Chris Williams, Casey Martin, Peter Uihlein, Nick Taylor, Daniel Summerhays, Kyle Stanley, Ryan Moore, Arron Oberholser and Jason Gore, among others. More than a dozen golfers who have competed in the SPC have wound up on the PGA Tour.