By Richard Oliver
SAN ANTONIO, TX. (Sunday, August 14, 2011) - It took 38 holes, including five extra ones in the final, for San Antonio businessman Gene Roe to capture his first city amateur title Sunday at Willow Springs Golf Course. All he had to do was come back from three holes down at the turn, catching Harry Ramirez with a crucial 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th — all while weathering the kind of heat that impacted psyches and scorecards.
"To be honest, I just kept having fun," Roe, 53, said after finally dispatching of Ramirez with a 4-foot par putt on the 23rd hole of their match, the par-4 No. 5. "It's almost like you're a spectator to your own game. You stand over your ball and say, 'Where does this one go?'"
Roe's championship in the senior division came roughly an hour after Texas State graduate Michael Carnes, headed to a professional career in coming weeks, toppled former Incarnate Word headliner Ed Sanchez, 3 and 1, in the men's open final.
Carnes, 22, was down by a hole when Suarez's par putt at the 14th hooked around the hole and popped out. Carnes took advantage with his own par, squaring the match.
"Once I saw that putt miss, I told my caddie, 'I've got to get to the next green,'" said Carnes, who played all weekend with a maroon-and-gold Texas State bag on his cart. "The adrenaline was just going."
At the par-4 15th, which stretches nearly 420 yards, Carnes took control by launching his wind-aided tee shot to just shy of the putting surface. He chipped to the shadow of the flag, making birdie to take a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
"I hit a good chip there," Carnes said, "and that put the pressure on him."
He followed that by sinking a serpentine 10-foot birdie putt at No. 16 before winning the 17th to seal the match, closing it out with wins on four straight holes.
"On the back nine, I was confident I could get it done," he said. "That's where I made my hay this week."
The sixth-seeded Carnes won six matches en route to his first city championship, topping an open division that began with 64 competitors. He had beaten No. 2 Adam Lowe, 4 and 3, earlier Sunday in the semifinals.
Sanchez, the 12th seed who recently was runner-up at the Austin Open, had eliminated No. 16 Jared Cornish, 3 and 2.
"I played well all week, so I can't complain," said Sanchez, 38. "I only had five bogeys in six rounds. These college kids are just tough to beat."
Roe, like Ramirez a past San Antonio team member in the annual Rudy's I-35 Cup, found himself trailing by three holes after his opponent drove the green from 350 yards on the par-4 ninth.
But Roe had caught Ramirez by the 14th before the latter edged ahead by one with birdie at the 15th. At the par-3 18th, needing a strong finish to stay alive, Roe laced a 3-iron from 220 yards to 10 feet to set up the clutch birdie and force a playoff.
"To play 37 or 38 holes two days running, for a 53-year-old?" Roe said, laughing. "Are you kidding me? But this was fun."