Bizarre late penalty helps KO Bartlett
DANIELS - Jon Bartlett's start to his second professional golf career took a nightmarish turn Monday, as he was trying to crack his second Greenbrier Classic field.
Bartlett, the 2010 West Virginia Amateur champion who made the cut in the inaugural PGA Tour event in White Sulphur Springs, needed birdies on his last two holes Monday to finish at 6-under-par 66 in the open qualifier.
As it turned out, six players shot that number, forcing a playoff for the four spots. But that didn't include Bartlett, who took a bizarre two-stroke penalty on his final hole.
Approaching the ninth green (he started on No. 10), Bartlett and Dennis Gagai got crossed up and played each other's ball. When they discovered their mistake, they had to accept two-stroke penalties.
Gagai was way, way out of it, finishing at 80. Bartlett, who just turned pro for the second time at age 35, had a good look at making the Classic field.
The problem was this: Both players were hitting Titleist balls, imprinted with the same number. On the previous hole, they had discovered they were playing the same balls, and agreed one of them would change.
That went awry.
"On the last hole, we found out we were playing the same ball - Titleist '1' and Titleist '1'," Bartlett said. "So I turned to him and said, 'I'll change balls.' He says, 'No, I'll change balls. No problem.' I had already changed balls [earlier in the round] and he changed balls and we went from both having '1s.'
"He had a '3' [or so Bartlett thought] and I had a '1' so I said, 'fine.' So we get on the fairway. It's a '1,' I hit it. I was 5-under coming into the last hole; I know I've got to get to 6. I've got momentum, I birdied the eighth hole. [We] get up to the green and . . . wrong ball.''
Bartlett missed what might have been his birdie putt and settled for a double-bogey 6, giving him a 3-under 69. He figures he had a better chance if the putt mattered.
He took the blame completely. In fact, he shied away from mentioning his fellow competitor by name, so as to give the appearance of calling him out.
"I'm a little bit shell-shocked," he said. "I'm 35 and I've been playing since I was 11 - that's 24 years and I've never hit the wrong golf ball in a tournament. Ever. I hold no grudges toward him whatsoever."
With that, the six players with matching 66s (three of the four even shot 33s on both nines) began their playoff. Christopher Ross bogeyed the first hole (played on No. 10) to bow out, and Jonathan Mills birdied to clinch his spot.
After the four remaining players parred the second hole (No. 18), they returned to the 10th for the third playoff hole. Ryan Blaum missed a 6-footer for par to end the playoff.
The four advancing to the field:
It was not a good day for local and state players. David Bradshaw, who missed the Classic field twice in previous playoffs, shot a 69. Parkersburg-based pro Kenneth Hess and Concord assistant golf coach Darcy Donaldson shot 71s.
Christian Brand finished at 77, Craig Berner 78 and Bosten Miller 82. Interestingly, Berner had West Virginia Open champion Jonathan Clark as his caddy.
Another notable miss included Patrick Reed, who was 4-for-4 this year in Monday qualifying. Reed is known for helping Augusta State to two NCAA Division I national titles, beating his former Georgia team in one championship match.
In other changes to the Classic field, Tom Gillis, Richard S. Johnson, Steve Marino and Matt Every have withdrawn. Steve Bowditch is in the field, as well as Matt Jones, Steve Flesch and Matt McQuillan.
Also, two Web.com Tour players have received sponsor's exemptions, Jason Gore and Sam Saunders. Saunders, grandson of the legendary Arnold Palmer, is playing in his second Classic.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.