Darkness means tie at San Antonio Open

SAN ANTONIO, TX (Nov. 22, 2010) -- By the time Kevin Messer stepped over his short par putt on the first playoff hole at the 21st San Antonio Open on Sunday, it had grown so dark that he considered a unique game plan. “I almost just closed my eyes,” the Austin resident said, laughing.

Instead, the former Texas State headliner managed to coax the ball home to keep pace with San Antonio's Bryan Novoa. A moment later, standing in the gloaming at Cedar Creek Golf Course, the men elected to not continue, sharing the championship of the unique event that combines amateur and professional talent.

“That,” Messer said afterward, “was a grind.”

In the end, it paid off for Messer, 28, and Novoa, 36. The pros, who finished the 36-hole tournament at par-144, each earned $2,650 in splitting the title.

TCU senior Scott Roudebush, an Austin native, and San Antonio's Brian Marchiori ended a stroke back as low amateurs in the 126-man field.

In the end, however, the 7,000-yard-plus course won the day. No one among the top 20 finishers broke par, thanks in large part to pesky pin placements and a raking south wind that wreaked havoc with tee shots and approaches.

Marchiori, a two-time San Antonio mid-am champ at Cedar Creek, went from first-round co-leader to a tie for third thanks to a 5-over 77. He played Nos. 13-16 in 5-over par, dropping out of the lead with a bogey at the par-3 16th.

The other co-leader coming into Sunday, Churchill-ex Jimmy Willingham, made the turn at 6-over in his second round en route to a bruising 86.

“It's a tough course when it's windy,” said former UTSA headliner Michael Mezei, tied for eighth at 147 after a closing 77. “When you're down in those hollows, you can't feel the wind, and it will knock down a lot of different things. You just have to be so precise with the conditions, and it's next to impossible.”

Messer, also tournament champ in 2007, found trouble much closer to earth at the par-4 No. 11. After his tee shot caromed under a rock overhang, he ended up at double bogey after swinging — and whiffing — on a left-handed swing to pop the ball out. After another bogey at No. 17, he nearly holed an eagle putt from off the first fringe on the closing hole.

That birdie, which gave him a 75, enabled him to catch Novoa, another mini-tour pro who also had almost dropped his eagle attempt from nearly the same spot in the previous group. The one-time UTSA and Texas Tech player rebounded with 74 after bogeys on two of his first three holes.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘You have to be patient, because the conditions are pretty tough,'” Novoa said. “But it was challenging to stay patient.”

On the par-4 No. 1, designated the first playoff hole, both men managed pars with darkness settling in.

“I'm really happy,” Messer said. “After all that out there, I was just pretty surprised to even tie for first.”

ABOUT THE San Antonio Open

36 hole stroke play event open to pros and amateurs with a handicap of 8 or less. The field is cut to the low 100 players after the first round.

The tournament benefits the Texas Research Society on Alcoholism. Proceeds from the tournament have helped to fund 15 medical, dental, and graduate student fellowships ($5,000 each) at Texas universities.

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