After having trouble getting putts to drop all tournament, an unlikely putt fell on the 15th hole to give Chris Murray the spark he needed to win the Kenai Open on Sunday at Kenai Golf Course.
Murray won with a two-day total of 8-over-par 152. Gilbert Arellano was second at 154, while Tommy Carver finished third at 156.
Murray struck the ball wonderfully all tournament. He hit eight of his first nine greens in regulation Saturday en route to nailing 25 of 36 for the two days.
But Murray’s torrid start tee to green was matched by a tepid start with the flat stick. He said on six of his first seven holes Saturday, he had birdie putts lip out or miss by just an inch.
“I had a 78 Saturday, but I had lip-outs on seven putts from 5 to 15 feet,” Murray said.
That 78 left Murray in third, four strokes behind co-leaders Arellano and Gordon Griffin. Playing in the final group Sunday with that pair, Murray went even par on the first seven holes to catch both Arellano and Griffin. However, on the par-5 eighth, Murray pulled his tee shot into the hazard and three-putted for a double bogey, leaving him two strokes back.
Murray also had yanked his tee shot and three-putted No. 8 for a double Saturday.
“Par is normally the worst score I make on that hole,” Murray said.
But Murray quickly shook off that double. He would play the final 10 holes in even par to wrap up the championship.
Murray passed Arellano on the par-3 14th, when Arellano put his tee ball in the hazard and wound up with a double bogey.
Then on the par-4 15th, Murray would pass Griffin due to the same putter that had given him so much heartbreak. Both Griffin and Arellano were inside 10 feet with birdie opportunities, while Murray faced a brutal, downhill, left-to-right birdie opportunity of about 20 feet.
He uncorked a putt that would have rolled 6 to 8 feet past the cup, had it not hit the back of the cup squarely, popped up, and nestled in the hole. Murray said he probably makes that putt five times in 100 chances, and never in that fashion.
“Like Gilbert said, ‘It’s in the bottom of the cup,’” Murray said.
When Griffin and Arellano missed their birdie putts, Murray led Griffin by one and Arellano by three heading into the final three holes.
Murray bogeyed the par-5 16th as Griffin moved into a tie for the lead and Arellano crept within two.
Fortunately for Murray, the long, 430-yard, par-4 17th awaited.
“They were hitting it 60 yards past me off the tee all day,” Griffin said of Murray and Arellano.
Griffin said he was 210 yards from the green on No. 17, needing a 3-wood, while Murray was within 140 yards of the hole. Murray parred the hole, while Griffin had a 4-footer for par circle the hole and stay out for a bogey.
With a one-shot lead on Griffin and two strokes on Arellano, Murray put his tee ball 154 yards from the green on the par-4 18th. Arellano put his second shot on the green, but Griffin hit into the hazard in front of the green twice on the way to making a nine.
Griffin said he was 170 out on his second shot and had a downhill lie — a big problem because long carries are tougher from downhill lies.
“If I had a one-stroke lead I would have laid up,” Griffin said. “I knew I had to make the perfect swing and I caught it fat.”
While Griffin was hitting a hybrid 4, Murray played next and lofted an 8-iron on the green. He said the gully is not an issue with a club like an 8-iron and the pin in the back of the green.
“I knew I had plenty of club,” Murray said. “I knew all I had to do was get it on the putting surface.”
Murray then two-putted for the two-shot victory. Griffin’s problems on No. 18 put him fifth in the tournament at 158, behind Tommy Carver at 156 and Chris Morin at 157.
Morin had the round of the tournament Sunday, shooting an ever-par 72. He said the key to round was getting the speed of the Kenai greens down. Morin said that after his tournament 18 on Saturday, he played another 36 holes on Saturday.
Murray also had low net in the first division at 138, while Griffin was second at 146 and Arellano was third at 148. In the second division, Chuck Rupenthal was first at 148, Joe Deveaux was second at 150 and Noel Widmayer was third at 150.
Saturday closest to the pins were as follows: No. 5 — Murray; No. 9 — Todd Eskelin; No. 10 — Aaron Cooper; No. 14 — Skip Dove; and second shot on No. 7 — Murray. On Sunday: No. 5 — Jesse Wade; No. 9 — Eskelin; No. 10 — Morin; No. 14 — Morin; and second shot on No. 18 — Deveaux.
Griffin thanked Mike Navarre at Arby’s for donating money for prizes at the tournament, and Doug Jung at Safeway for providing pastries before each round.
at Kenai Golf Course
Plyr Sat Sun Grs Net
Chris Murray 78 74 152 138
Gilbert Arellano 74 80 154 148
Tommy Carver 79 77 156 156
Chris Morin 85 72 157 149
Gordon Griffin 74 84 158 146
Greg Harrington 82 79 161 149
Todd Eskelin 80 82 162 150
Doug Jung 89 82 171 157
Jesse Wade 89 83 172 150
Aaron Cooper 85 89 174 158
Mike Houghton 89 90 179 157
Chuck Rupenthal 91 81 172 148
Noel Widmayer 85 89 174 150
Tristen Anderson 86 90 176 152
Kirk Hyman 93 87 180 156
Joe Deveaux 91 93 184 150
Skip Dove 91 98 189 155
Sid Sox 99 94 193 157
Dusty Steinbeck 105 95 200 160
Denise Cox 111 109 220 170