When he bent down to pick up his ball out of the cup, he had to brace his hand on his thigh in order to straighten up.
And when he reached to the ground to push his tee into the soil for a drive, he'd have to wait a few seconds for the pain to subside when getting back up to address the ball.
But Birch Ridge Golf Course pro Tom Walsh pushed through the back pain to win the seventh annual Wells Fargo All Alaska Pro Skins Game Monday at a sun-splashed Birch Ridge.
Walsh won $1,550 for his first victory in four tries at the skins game. Anchorage golf course teaching pro James Contreras took home $1,000 for second place.
The others -- two-time defending champion Billy Bomar of Settlers Bay Golf Course, 2000 champ Tony Grimes of Palmer Golf Course and George Collum III of Palmer Golf Course -- were shut out.
Walsh is in his seventh year as the pro at Birch Ridge, but he also does groundskeeping for the course. Since the skins game and the Birch Ridge Golf Course Pro-Am, which also took place Monday, are some of Birch Ridge's biggest events of the year, Walsh put in a long week on the riding mower, including a 12-hour day, to get the course in shape.
This left the course in marvelous shape, and Walsh's back in terrible shape.
"I've had a bad back for years," Walsh said. "You learn to live with it."
And, in Walsh's case, that also means he learns to golf with it.
In a skins game, golfers play for specified money amounts each hole. In order to claim the cash, a golfer has to score better than all the other golfers on the hole. If nobody wins the hole, the loot is carried over to the next hole.
That let Walsh and his bad back get off to a slow start. He shanked a drive on No. 1 and didn't even finish the hole, but the money from that hole carried over when nobody could manage a skin.
On 370-yard, par-4 No. 2, Walsh started by smacking his drive down the middle of the fairway. He then played a sand wedge to within 7 feet of the hole, then drained that putt for a birdie and a $200 skin.
Nobody would take another skin until the seventh hole, which measures 380 yards and is a par 4. Walsh cranked his drive down the center of the fairway about 130 yards away from the hole.
Then he hit what he called his best shot of the day, tucking a pitching wedge 3 feet from the hole and tapping in for a birdie and $1,350.
The event was supposed to go nine holes, but there were no skins on Nos. 8 and 9 so, with $1,000 in the pot, the players moved on to No. 10.
On No. 10, everybody had taken par when Walsh stood over a 9-foot birdie putt. However, his $1,000 putt came up right and short.
"I just kind of ran out of steam," said Walsh, who had played 18 holes in the Pro-Am. "I'd been here since six in the morning because I had to mow greens."
All of the pros had played 18 holes in the Pro-Am, so many were looking tired by the 11th hole. Contreras, however, was looking fresh.
He had to make a 9-footer on No. 10 to avoid a bogie and elimination from the playoff, but after sinking that putt he said he felt he had a good chance to win.
"I felt really good about the way I had been hitting the ball all day," he said. "I figured if I could keep hitting greens, I had to win sooner or later."
On the 11th hole, the field was whittled to two when Collum and Contreras were the only ones to make par.
On the par-4, 425-yard 12th hole, Collum put his drive in the trees on the right fairway, forcing him to scramble, and Contreras got on the green in two en route to a par and the $1,000 skin.
In the Pro-Am, the top team was George Collum III, Tracy Collum, George Collum Jr., Nancy Munoz and Gary Munoz.
The top money winner was Matt Matarrese, who took low gross for the amateurs and also had a skin.
Birch Ridge Golf Course Pro-Am
at Birch Ridge Golf Course
117 -- George Collum III, Tracy Collum, George Collum Jr., Nancy Munoz, Gary Munoz.
122 -- Jeff Barnhardt, Bob Haggarty, Chuck Cordon, Tim Rut, James Ray.
122 -- Mark Dolejsi, Jim Moore, Joyce Moore, Sandy Compton, Maurien Compton.
122 -- Billy Bomar, Mike Azzara, Gene Friendshuh, Phil Turkington, Rene Alvarez.
124 -- Bill Engberg, Mark Matarrese, Matt Matarrese, Ken Liedes, Gene Granath.
125 -- James Contreras, Earl Frawner, Ann Frawner, Jack MacMullen, Ruth MacMullen.
125 -- Rob Nelson, Carol Morgan, Jesse Wade, Keith Stuart, Bob Bambace.
128 -- Bryan Anderson, Russ Kaiser, Don McGhee, Dr. Pease, Ray Hamby.
129 -- Tom Walsh, Gary Dawkins, Tom Reese, Gerald Winkler, Tom Allison.
129 -- Tony Grimes, Jim Robinson, J.B. Moore, Dave Stein, Bob Bush.
130 -- John McBride, Billy Applewhite, Bill Burtrum, Pat Bird, Andy Anderson.
130 -- Jeff Auf Der Heide, Steve Dexheimer, Nick Horn, Loren Smagge, Robbie Smithwick.
132 -- Zac Gaviak, Chuck Rider, Kevin Downs, Darrel Jelsma, Lynne Reynolds.
135 -- Mark Bomar, Debbie Dunagan, Bill Davis, Jamie Query, Dave Keating.
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