It all came down to a 10-foot putt on the 18th hole at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Sunday, in the final round of the Hotel Fitness Championship.
Bud Cauley was in the clubhouse at 20-under, preparing for a playoff he thought was inevitable. But Colt Knost lipped his birdie putt, and the championship, $180,000 and a PGA Tour card for next season were Cauley’s.
Had there been a sudden-death playoff, it would have started on the par-4 18th, then gone to 18 again before being played on Nos. 16, 17 and 18, if necessary.
I was in the clubhouse just thinking about the tee shot on 18, said Cauley, after a final-round 7-under 65. Colt hit a great shot in there, and I thought for sure he would make the putt. I was going over it in my head what I had done in regulation and was getting ready to do it again.
Knost had a wait of about 10 minutes to think about his birdie putt, after his playing partner, Sam Saunders, put his approach shot over the green and into a volunteer. Saunders then had to take relief from a TV tower before chipping to within 12 feet and ultimately making bogey before Knost got his try to force extra play.
I’m really proud of the way I played 18, said Knost, who came into Sunday as the leader at 15 under, two better than Cauley, who was tied for fourth.
Knost also secured a tour card and won $108,000 in the second-running of the Hotel Fitness Championship, which is the first of four events within the Web.com Tour Finals.
I sucked it up and hit a good iron in there and I hit a good putt (on 18), Knost said. I might have pulled it a hair. I got tricked by watching Sam’s putt. But it was a good putt. It’s not like I went out and shot even par. I went out there, tried to get it and I hit a lot of good shots today.
A crowd of about 1,000 watched the final dramatic moments. While final attendance numbers haven’t been determined, Sycamore Hills general manager Eric Schneider said he believed it was above the 25,000 of last year’s inaugural tournament.
Not only is the Evans Scholars a tremendous beneficiary (for the tournament), but the economic impact for Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana we figure is probably $4 million, said Bruce Dye, the CEO of Hotel Fitness. I’d like to thank the sponsors and fans in the greater Fort Wayne community for supporting the second year of the Hotel Fitness Championship and we look forward to bringing it back next year.
Both champions of the event – Trevor Immelman and Cauley – finished at 20 under.
After changes to the course to help make it more difficult, scores overall did increase from an average of 70.279 last year to 71.15. The cut line also went up from 3 under in 2013 to 1 under this year.
Renovations will continue before next year, when the final contract between Sycamore Hills and the PGA Tour expires, and they can only hope for as exciting a finish as they got Sunday.
I’m so proud of the way I played 18. I gave myself a chance, Knost said.