ROYERSFORD, PA (May 4, 2017) - Brian Corbett turned a golfer’s nightmare into tournament reverie Thursday at Spring Ford Country Club (par 72, 6,520 yards).
As the Senior Division leader with two holes remaining in the 83rd Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross) at Spring Ford Country Club (par 72, 6,520 yards), Corbett took an untimely unplayable lie on the 17th hole. He then sunk a sand shot for a vital par and soon-to-be score of even-par 72. That number translated into a two-stroke victory for the longtime Golf Association of Philadelphia competitor.
Lancaster Country Club’s Kenneth Phillips and Little Mill Country Club’s Joseph Roeder tied for second at 2-over-par 74.
“It doesn’t feel any better than this,” an overwhelmed Corbett, 58, of Clarks Summit, Pa., said. “I’ve always wanted to win a GAP event. I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished today. It’s going to be a great car ride home.”
On the aforementioned No. 17, a slight dogleg right measuring 413 yards, Corbett faced a known and unknown on the tee: go right, and he can’t carry the trees on his approach. Slam it straight, and he risks the dreaded fairway-runner.
“I hit it right down the walking line, thinking I’m perfect. I went through the fairway,” Corbett, an insurance agent, said. “My ball was lying right against a root in between two roots. I may have been able to hack down on something and punch it out to maybe 160 yards, but I was afraid that if I hit the root — and I’ve had it happen before — the club would hit the root, bounce over the ball and then I whiff. So, I took an unplayable.”
With 175 yards for his third shot, Corbett pushed a 5-iron into the right greenside bunker. He holed the ensuing extrication for par.
“I was kind of stunned. I was happy, but I was stunned,” Corbett said. “At that point of a round in any tournament, I don’t think I’ve ever holed out on the 17th hole from a bunker, whether it be for a par or a birdie.”
Although he escaped No. 17 unscathed, Corbett encountered another test of nerves on the closing 18th hole (par 5, 492 yards). Another striped drive cut through the fairway and settled two inches outside the right fairway bunker. Exhibiting a Hokey Pokey stance, Corbett cleared the water hazard with a 4-hybird. He then knocked a wedge 90 yards to 10 feet above the hole, rolled a slippery slider 18 inches by and dropped the anxious comebacker.
Corbett’s championship round started in non-championship form. On the V-shaped No. 1 (par 4, 450 yards), Corbett dealt with a 180-yard uphill approach out of a downhill lie. Ruling out a hybrid, he chose a hard 5-iron and came up short of the green. A two-putt from 15 feet resulted in a bogey. Corbett splashed a drive into the water hazard on No. 2 (par 4, 406 yards) for another 5. Next came the turnaround.
“I actually hit the ball very well once I got past No. 2, which was critical. I really didn’t miss a shot from No. 3 tee through No. 9 green,” Corbett said.
Oh no he didn’t.
Corbett, playing in the afternoon’s first group, birdied the par 5, 520-yard No. 5 after flipping a wedge to 10 feet above the hole location. He drained an uphill, left-to-right breaking 25-footer on No. 7 (par 3, 187 yards) following a splendid 5-iron. On the par 5, 522-yard No. 9, Corbett hit a wedge 50 yards to four feet below the flagstick and made the birdie putt.
Corbett’s inward nine mirrored his outward start. Old habits created a bogey on No. 10 (par 4, 412 yards).
“I always hit driver. I always aim at the right bunker, and I always hit it right where I’m aiming,” Corbett said. “Then I have to hit a 9-iron up to the green because you have to get over the lip. I missed about a 10-footer [for par].”
On No. 11 (par 4, 354 yards), Corbett, thinking extra club to avoid a guarding bunker, flushed a 9-iron over the green and failed to get up-and-down. As the sun sheltered in cloud cover, temperatures dipped slightly; the winds not so much. Corbett, however, withstood any interference from Mother Nature — and the rest of the field. He reached the 15th green (par 5, 485 yards) in two with a 4-wood from 230 yards for a two-putt birdie. A save on No. 16, a treacherous downhill, upwind par 3 measuring 196 yards, preluded Corbett’s heroics on the 17th hole. Again, old habits caused trouble.
“It always plays the distance, and I always hit it into the front bunker,” Corbett said. He did just that, but splashed out to eight feet and wiggled a par putt in the side door. Corbett, who’s competed in two U.S. Mid-Amateurs, credits his instructor, John Spina, with an assist in his breakthrough performance at Spring Ford.
“I’ve been struggling for a few years. I’ve been working on my game for about a year now with John,” he said. “I’m always migrating back to what I used to do, which is bad shots. I really stayed in the moment and did some things he tells me that I’m supposed to do. It was quite gratifying to, down the stretch, do the things I’m supposed to do. I’ve been playing a long time and have been really frustrated with golf. Right now, it feels pretty good.”
View results for Francis Warner Cup