In a tournament filled with local pros, it was an amateur from the Los Angeles area that won the 15th Annual Straight Down Fall Classic on Sunday.
Greg Wells, partnered with PGA Tour professional Brendan Steele in the two-day pro-am tournament, sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a four-way playoff to clinch the title.
Steele took the $20,000 prize for the winning pro. The duo became the first pair to win the tournament in their first appearance.“It was pretty easy knowing I had a PGA Tour player backing me up in case I missed,” said Wells, who was formerly a pro on the Canadian Tour. “I birdied 18 in the second round, so I knew I could do it again.”
The pair came back to shoot 8-under today after shooting 5-under on Saturday. They bogeyed the first hole of the second round but came back with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes to force the four-way tie.
“It was pretty awesome watching Greg roll it in,” Steele said. “He decided to make it interesting by hitting it in the trees then decided to stop messing around and make it in. It was nice not having to putt and just being a cheerleader. I’m a pretty good cheerleader.”
To combat the rapidly encroaching darkness, the playoff was a sudden death replay of the 18th hole. The best ball would decide the score, but in case of a tie, the partner’s score would be the tiebreaker. If the partners’ scores were still tied, the 18th hole would be played again.
But Wells made sure one playoff hole was enough.
Also in the playoff were 2009 U.S. Open Runner-up Ricky Barnes and his partner Andrew Medley, Nationwide Tour player Gunner Wiebe and partner Tim Mickelson — brother of Phil Mickelson — and Ned Weaver of New Castle Country Club and Doug Hanzel. Weaver won $2,500 for having the lowest score for a club pro.
Barnes and Wiebe also had intermediate putts for potential birdies on the playoff hole. Hanzel missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the end of the second round, which would have won the title outright.
The defending champions — Champions Tour player and San Luis Obispo native Loren Roberts and partner Mike Rowley — were a stroke off the pace Saturday, but a bogey on the 14th hole prevented any chance of a title defense.
Roberts, a Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo High alumnus, joked about his Tiger Woods like following of a crowd gallery, quipping that he’s the Tiger of San Luis Obispo.
Being from the area, Roberts had the biggest support, but after a rough back nine, he finished two strokes back in a tie for seventh place at 11-under in his final tournament of the year.
“This tournament is about seeing everybody for me,” Robert said. “It’s more of a social than a golf tournament. I come back to play this great tournament, but when I come back to SLO, it’s usually to visit relatives rather than play golf.”
Out-of-towners also like the more relaxed nature of the local tournament as compared to the pressures of professional tours without the help of partners. Barnes, in his second appearance at the tournament, had an eagle on the 10th hole to help his team finish with the lowest score of the second round at 9-under for the day.
“These tournaments are a lot more laid back and fun, but we’re still competitive because we don’t like losing at anything,” he said.
Barnes will be going right back to the professional circuit, taking a scheduled flight out of town Sunday night to Japan for a tournament on the Asian Tour.