Brandon Rougeau (Golf Austin photo)
By Trenton Daeschner for Golf Austin
AUSTIN, TX (August 5, 2018) - For much of Sunday’s final round of the Austin Men’s City Championship, Brandon Rougeau and Seger Howell just couldn’t get away from each other.
The two played in the last group together for the second straight day, rode in the same golf cart and were separated by just a single stroke as they prepared to hit their second shots at the pivotal par-4 17th at Jimmy Clay Golf Course.
“We had a great competition the whole round,” Rougeau said later. “We were just back-and-forth the whole time — making putts, hitting good golf shots.”
Rougeau maintained the slim lead, but this was far from over. Anything can happen over the last two holes of the Men’s City, as proven during last year’s final round at Jimmy Clay. That day, Howell led by two with two to play, but a bogey-double bogey finish cost him the tournament.
On Sunday afternoon, a steady tension was developing in the 17th fairway. Howell had pushed his tee shot into the right rough, but his approach found the green, roughly 15 feet below the hole with a makeable birdie putt. Now the pressure was on Rougeau. Lying in the middle of the fairway after a 333-yard tee shot, Rougeau had just 104 yards left to an inviting front-middle hole location with a backstop.
This was a green light special for Rougeau, who then proceeded to hit the shot of his life.
He hit a smooth 54-degree gap wedge with a slight draw, holding it up against the left-to-right wind. His ball landed a foot behind the flag stick and took two small, short hops before spinning back right into the cup. Eagle.
“As soon as it came off the club, I knew it was good,” Rougeau said. “I was absolutely in shock (it went in).”
There was an ever-so-brief pause of silence from the gallery of roughly 25 people, almost as if they were trying to process what they had just seen. But then there plenty of cheers. Rougeau’s hole-out eagle was a backbreaker, effectively ending any chance Howell had of overtaking the lead and the city title.
“I was just like, ‘Dude, great shot,’” Howell said. “I mean I wanted to say some other things. Gave him a high-five and I was trying to be a good sport.”
Howell missed his birdie putt at the 17th, and Rougeau walked to the 18th tee at 9 under for the tournament holding a three-shot lead. A tough 18th hole awaited, but two precise iron shots by Rougeau led to a routine, stress-free par.
Rougeau, a 23-year-old former UT Tyler golfer and Vista Ridge High School alumnus, was the Austin Men’s City champion.
“This summer I haven’t been playing great golf,” Rougeau said. “I’ve been trying to do a little swing change, and it’s been slowly coming around. Just winning this tournament, this is a big boost in my confidence going in for the rest of the year and next year when I do turn pro.”
Rougeau carded a 2-under 70 to finish at 9 under for the tournament and four strokes clear of Howell, who bogeyed the last hole to end the day with an even-par 72 and a second-place finish at 5 under.
Rougeau and Howell are no strangers to each other. Rougeau played his college golf at UT Tyler and graduated in 2017, while Howell will be a senior for Concordia University’s team. The two schools are in the same conference, and the two players have played a number of rounds with each other before.
For Howell, this was the second consecutive year he finished as the runner-up in the Men’s City. Last year’s title slipped away due to self-inflicted wounds; this year’s slipped away due to a miracle shot by his playing competitor.
“I mean No. 17 — that was definitely a gut punch,” Howell said. “I’m tired of getting second. It’s just getting old. But my congrats to Brandon. He played a hell of a round.”
Rougeau said after his victory that he plans to turn professional come next January. He’ll then go through qualifying school for the Canadian tour in March, while mixing in some tournaments on the Adams Tour. Until then, the plan is to continue to sharpen his game.
He holds a side job out at Cimarron Hills Golf and Country Club in Georgetown, where he regularly practices and plays. Rougeau will be back out there Monday for his 6 a.m. shift, only this time as the Austin Men’s City champion.
Asked after his victory if he had any celebratory plans Sunday evening, Rougeau was hesitant.
“I’ll probably just go home, maybe cook a little bit and maybe have a few beers and probably go to sleep,” Rougeau said with a smile. “I’m exhausted after those four rounds, especially in this heat.”