UNLV's Penner Wins Big Amateur Golf Tournament
July 7, 2012
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLV men's golf's rising senior Kevin Penner won the 19th Sahalee Players Championship on Friday, coming out on top after a three-way, sudden-death playoff at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.
Penner, who attended Eastlake High School in Sammamish, birdied the 72nd hole of the tournament to get into the playoff with Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho, and Ben Geyer of Arbuckle, Calif. Penner then birdied the first playoff hole to capture the title.
All three competitors were on the green in regulation in the playoff. After Williams missed his 21-foot birdie attempt, Penner sank his 6-footer to put the pressure on Geyer, who saw his 4-foot try slide by the hole. It marked the first playoff at the event since 2006.
Playing in the final group of the day with Williams and standing on the tee of the 535-yard par-5 18th hole during regulation, Penner was two shots behind leader Williams and a shot behind Geyer, who was in the clubhouse at 9-under-par for the tournament after firing a final round 6-under-par 66.
"It was pretty clear what I had to do," Penner said afterward. He hit his tee shot 40 yards past his playing partners, then hit a long-iron from 210 yards to the center of the green and two-putted for a birdie and the tie.
Penner watched as Williams pulled his own drive into the left fairway bunker. "That was probably my worst shot of the week," said Williams. His ball was under the lip of the bunker, and he had to blast out with a wedge, leaving himself 210 yards for his third shot, which he then pulled into the left greenside bunker. "I mucked the hole up," he said, eventually making bogey to fall into a tie with Geyer and Penner.
"I didn't expect Williams to bogey that hole," said Penner later. "I really thought I needed to eagle it. It was a weird round for me. I felt in control of my game, but nothing really was happening."
Penner had a large following in the gallery as Sahalee had been the home course for his high school golf team. "Yes, Chris was defending his title, but my friends were telling me that I was defending my turf." It was a full-circle victory for Penner, who volunteered as a walking scorer at the 2006 SPC for eventual champion Kyle Stanley. "I always wanted to play in this tournament, and I always wanted to win this tournament." When asked if this is the biggest win of his young career, he said, "Absolutely. Definitely the biggest win for me." Watch Penner's interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLAZ5NXWIdc&feature=youtu.be
This was the fourth SPC Penner has competed in. He tied for fourth in the championship last year.
Penner began the day on Friday with a one-shot lead. He joins the list of SPC past champions that include Chris Williams, Casey Martin, Peter Uihlein, Nick Taylor, Daniel Summerhays, Kyle Stanley, former Rebel Ryan Moore, Arron Oberholser and Jason Gore, among others. More than a dozen golfers who have competed in the SPC have wound up on the PGA Tour.
The Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) partnered with Sahalee Country Club 13 years ago to create the "Western Swing" with the Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur Championship. The Sahalee Players Championship is the first leg of the swing, with the Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur being played the following week. The two championships combined with a primary goal of providing amateur golfers in the West an opportunity to play two major national amateur championships without having to travel to the East Coast.
Penner earned honorable mention All-America honors following his junior season at UNLV. He finished sixth in the Mountain West in scoring average and second on the team with 71.61 over 36 rounds. He finished in the top 20 nine times, including seven top-10 finishes and five top-fives. He was under par 15 times and shot even par in four rounds. He won the individual title at the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate and was also named All-MW.