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Krafting a win: Former U.S. Am champ rallies for Pro-Am title

Published 8/13/2012 in Pro-Am

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

When Kelly Kraft and Nick Mason teed off early Saturday afternoon in the final round of the 33rd annual Southwest Kansas Pro-Am, they each knew one thing was for certain.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Professional Nick Mason chips on to the No. 2 green Saturday at The Golf Club at Southwind during the final round of play in the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. Mason finished second.

Brad Nading/Telegram Professional Nick Mason chips on to the No. 2 green Saturday at The Golf Club at Southwind during the final round of play in the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. Mason finished second.

Kraft, of Purcellville, Va., knew that he would have to somehow come up with a stellar round to overcome a 6-shot deficit while Mason, of Denver, and the 54-hole leader by one shot over Roger Sloan of Canada, knew that all he had to do was go out and play solid golf and he may well win the Pro-Am title for the first time.

And when the tradiional southerly wind of western Kansas kicked up into its normal 20-25 mph with gusts up to 30 to 35 mph, Mason liked his chances.

But the game of golf, rarely predictable, took an unusual twist on the final day as Kraft shot a 1-under-par 70 while Mason struggled, shooting a 77, giving Kraft a one-shot victory and the $12,000 winner's check for his first victory as a professional.

It was Kraft, the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion who played in this year's Masters and made the 36-hole cut, who combatted the windy conditions at The Golf Club at Southwind as the best 30 players in the field could do little more than average 76.62 for the day.

"I was able to get some birdies coming in and just hit some really good shots," Kraft said afterward. "I mean, it wasn't going great on the front nine (1-over 36), so I just told myself to try and shoot a couple of under on the back and see what happens. It worked out."

Only Tom Glissmeyer of Colorado Springs bettered Kraft's incoming nine with a 3-under 33 en route to a 70. Michael Arnaud's 69 was the lone sub-70 round of the day at Southwind. Defending champion Chris Ward fought his way back after a slow first two days to finish tied for sixth at 282 with a final round 71.

In the end, though, the day belonged to Kraft, who had admittedly been struggling since his performance at the Masters in April. Using a half-dozen sponsor exemptions to compete on the PGA Tour, he had never finished better than 45th. So this week's first appearance at the Pro-Am ended with a surprising come-from-behind win.

"You never know in this game. I'll take a win any way I can," Kraft said. "On a day like today, I just knew I needed to keep grinding away and hope something good would happen."

For Kraft, the good started on the 11th hole, where he nailed a pitching wedge to within one foot for birdie. He would hit 9-iron to one foot on the 427-yard, par-4, 14th, for anothr birdie. A bogey on the always difficult par-5, 15th, into the teeth of the Kansas wind, slowed the rally. He saved par with an 8-footer on the par-3, 16th. Then, it was a birdie-birdie finish to put the capstone on what would become his first victory as a pro.

On the 17th, he rifled a gap wedge to 3 feet and knocked it in. The 18th proved to be the clincher, and Kraft said he couldn't remember hitting any better two shots on the hole. A driver left him 180 yards in on the 478-yard finishing hole, and he knocked a pitching wedge to within six inches short of the hole and tapped in for another birdie.

"That was a fun day, a tough day. We had a lot of crosswinds out there," Kraft said. "There were pins on the front of the greens on the downwind holes, and you didn't get many good looks at birdie. On the back I just hit it better. But, boy, it was a grind."

Kraft, who plans to go through qualifying school this fall for both the European and U.S. PGA Tours, said he will take the next month to get ready for those two important events. He doesn't know yet where he will attempt to qualify in Europe (September).

"This week is a big positive for me," Kraft said. "I putted decently, but the big thing for me was I hit the driver well, and my iron play was much better than it has been all summer. It feels like my game has gotten better, back to where it was before."

Mason's day never got rolling. He never made birdie the entire round. He had one bogey (No. 4) and one double bogey (No. 7) on the front nine to make the turn at 11-under-par. He bunkered his tee shot on the par-3, 13th only to have his sand shot hit the flagstick and finish about 20 feet away, and he couldn't convert his putt for par. On the 14th, an uphill par-4 with a crosswind, Mason's drive was right and his second shot finished to the right of the green, as well. Once again, he couldn't get the ball up and down to save par. He made consecutive pars on 15, 16 and 17 before coming to the 72nd hole tied with Kraft.

His tee shot landed in the middle of the fairway, and his approach shot to the green, downwind, hit in the middle of the green and rolled through into the second cut of rough, about 30 feet from the hole. His chip back into the wind went about four feet by the hole and his potential tying par, putt ended up just inches short.

Notes: Dr. Stephen Meyers, the founder of the St. Catherine Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit in 1977, was inducted into the Pro-Am's Hall of Fame during the awards ceremony at Southwind following the conclusion of the tournament.

Meyers, who retired from St. Catherine in 2010, now lives in the Twin Cities and works halftime at a hospital in St. Paul, Minn.

He and his wife have children there and have settled into being grandparents since their move two summers ago. He, along with NBICU honored graduate Ryleigh Whitehurst, were delivered to the tournament site via the EagleMed helicopter that began its service to western Kansas late in 2011.

"This isn't about me, it's about Garden City and all of southwest Kansas," Meyers said in his remarks after being presented a silver tray as the latest inductee. "The donations that have been made through the Pro-Am made our job possible, and it's given the area a level of care necessary to avoid transferring newborns to Kansas City, Wichita or Denver."

Meyers said he and his wife flew into Garden City, their first time back since 2010, on the new American Eagle jet that now services Garden City from Dallas. They were to return to Minneapolis on Sunday.

"We left the unit in good hands, and all the doctors and staff continue to do great work," Meyers said in a separate interview with The Telegram. "It's just a continuation of all the things we strived to do. It was my pleasure to serve the community."

Meyers said he was working halftime at an Urgent Care facility in St. Paul and also is enjoying grandparenting.

"It's an honorable profession," he said with a smile of being a grandparent. "We have fond, fond memories here and lots of great friends and trusted colleagues. Mainly, I'm happy that this area of Kansas can have such a vital medical service to meet the needs of the people."

See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.

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Southwest Kansas Pro-AM

The Golf Club at Southwind

Buffalo Dunes Golf Course

Saturday

Professional Final Results

72 Holes (Par 286)

Purse: $60,905

1 Kelly Kraft, $12,000.00 68-72-67-70--277

2 Nick Mason, $6,000.00 64-68-69-77--278

T3 Fergal Rafferty, $4,200.00 65-72-70-73--280

T3 Roger Sloan, $4,200.00 64-72-66-78--280

5 Cole Howard, $3,225.00 68-66-77-70--281

T6 Chris Ward, $2,632.50 71-74-66-71--282

T6 Chris Thompson, $2,632.50 68-71-68-75--282

T8 Tom Glissmeyer, $1,968.33 69-74-71-70--284

T8 Will Osborne, $1,968.33 67-68-72-77--284

T8 Trent Whitekiller, $1,968.33 71-68-72-73--284

T11 Steve Gotsche, $1,466.25 69-72-73-71--285

T11 Michael Arnaud, $1,466.25 71-73-72-69--285

T11 Ryan Spears, $1,466.25 68-70-71-76--285

T11 Douglas Quinones, $1,466.25 67-74-70-74--285

T15 Bill Allcorn, $1,287.50 73-68-75-70--286

T15 Stetson McMillan, $1,287.50 73-73-69-71--286

T17 Jeff Rein, $1,217.50 72-69-76-71--288

T17 Derek Tolan, $1,217.50 65-74-70-79--288

T19 Jeff Howard, $1,113.75 70-71-72-76--289

T19 Dino Giacomazzi Jr., $1,113.75 70-74-71-74--289

T19 Matthew Henson, $1,113.75 68-77-73-71--289

T19 Robby Ormand, $1,113.75 72-72-72-73--289

T23 Matthew Vela, $990.00 74-70-72-74--290

T23 Tyler Sheppard, $990.00 72-73-70-75--290

T23 Jonathan Bartlett, $990.00 69-80-67-74--290

T26 Cyril Bouniol, $603.33 70-73-73-75--291

T26 Charlie Holland, $603.33 68-73-68-82--291

T26 Sam Powell, $603.33 68-75-68-80--291

29 Matthew Stephens, 68-73-73-78--292

T30 S. Hollingsworth, 75-73-66-79--293

T30 Ryan Brooks, 70-75-73-75--293

T30 Michael Carnes, 70-71-71-81--293

T30 Taylor Artman, 67-74-71-81--293

34 Franklin Corpening, 67-73-76-78--294

T35 Brian Friederichs, 72-78-68-78--296

T35 Justin Kaplan, 73-75-71-77--296

37 Zechariah Potter, 73-72-72-80--297

38 James Haggard, 73-72-78-75--298

T39 Brent Marshall, 67-73-77-82--299

T39 Chase Cooper, 67-85-70-77--299

T41 Cameron Bishop, 75-77-70-78--300

T41 John Kelly, 74-69-76-81--300

T41 Tim McKinnis, 73-75-73-79--300

T44 T. A. Gempel, 74-72-69-86--301

T44 Jaxon Brigman, 73-76-72-80--301

T46 Jared Vela, 73-76-74-79--302

T46 Daniel Blair, 72-75-78-77--302

T46 Todd Rossetti, 72-82-74-74--302

T49 Ryan Ouellette, 76-76-71-80--303

T49 C. RauvolaBouta, 73-79-75-76--303

T49 Travis Klutts, 77-78-73-75--303

T52 Andrew Green, 76-71-73-84--304

T52 Garrett Merrell, 71-81-71-81--304

T52 Mark Johnson, 77-76-72-79--304

T52 Key Young, 76-75-81-72--304

T52 Andy Connell, 70-72-77-85--304

T52 Luke Symons, 75-78-72-79--304

58 Eric Adler, 75-79-74-78--306

59 Justin McDaniel, 74-76-74-83--307

60 Jack Shores, 71-79-78-80--308

T61 Tate Allred, 76-78-77-78--309

T61 Jason Eslinger, 75-85-74-75--309

T63 Dylan Davis, 75-81-76-84--316

T63 Walker Frey, 81-84-72-79--316

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