Home sweet home.
Birch Ridge golf pro Tom Walsh sank a short birdie putt on the first extra hole of the 2004 Birch Ridge Pro/Am-Wells Fargo Alaska All-Alaskan Skins Game to take home three skins and $1,500 good enough to hang onto bragging rights at his home course for another year.
"Tom's tough to beat on his home course," Anchorage pro Billy Bomar said after Walsh delighted the die-hard home fans still watching the event when it finished up at 11:30 p.m.
For Walsh, the final putt was a sweet one, but his smile afterward may have been one more of relief than exultation.
"I was out here at 6 a.m. mowing the fairways," Walsh said. "It's been a long day for me."
Walsh said the short final putt was a little tricky because of the failing light.
Birch Ridge pro Tom Walsh laughs during the skins game. Walsh won the final three skins, earning him a nice $1,500 check.
Photo by Matt Tunseth
"It's so dark, it was getting a little blurry," he said.
The big finish in the skins portion of the annual event gave Walsh some much-needed confidence following knee surgery just two months ago. He said he's hoping that the performance will spur him on as the Alaska professional season peaks.
"I've got a big tournament coming up this weekend," he said, noting that the upcoming King Crab Open is expected to attract as many as 35-40 pros.
Although Walsh was the big winner in the main event, he wasn't the only professional to take home some extra cash. Playing with Walsh in the skins game were Billy and Mark Bomar, Brian Anderson and John McBride. The four made it into the skins portion of the event by taking the top four spots in the pro/am, with Billy Bomar winning that portion of the event by firing an even par 70 to win by one stroke over the other three.
Early on in the skins game it was McBride who looked as if he'd run away with the money, winning five of the first six skins for $800 in prize money. However, the five pros pushed on each of the final three big money ($500) holes, sending them all back to the 350-yard par-4 first to settle things. Playing from the blue tees, Walsh hit his drive right down the middle, then knocked his second shot stiff from inside 100 yards to give himself the easy birdie putt.
After Mark Bomar and Anderson missed long downhill putts, Billy Bomar left his birdie try an inch short. McBride then missed a 10-foot downhill sidewinder, leaving Walsh alone to take the money and run.
Following the event, Billy Bomar who took home one skin for $250 in addition to his $500 in prize money for first place in the pro/am said he was happy with how things turned out despite the late finish.
"It was a long day," he said. "But fun."
It wasn't just pros having a good time Monday in Soldotna. A record 70 amateurs turned out for this year's event, with groups joining with the pros to see how they measured up. Some did quite well, with Felix Martinez, Tony Azzara and Jason Kaiser shooting six-over 76 to tie for the low amateur title.
As for Bomar, he's making a habit of taking money back to Anchorage with him. The pro/am was his third at Birch Ridge, and he's also the defending champion in the Kenai Chrysler Open. He said that with all the success he's had on the peninsula, he definitely plans to return in a couple weeks to defend his title at the Kenai event, which this year will give out a winner's check of at least $7,000.
"It's good down here," he said.
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