Published 8/2/2011 in Pro-Am
By BRETT MARSHALL
ULYSSES — Tyler Neal and Nick Mason have played enough competitive golf to know that there are no guarantees in any round.
Laurie Sisk/Telegram Ryan Martin, Garden City, putts on the No. 18 hole on Monday at Bentwood Golf Course in Ulysses.
Laurie Sisk/Telegram Brandon Nau, Ulysses, reacts after sinking a 30-foot putt for par on the No. 18 hole on Monday at Bentwood Golf Course in Ulysses.
So when both left Bentwood Golf Course late Monday following a sudden death playoff in the Ulysses Shootout, they headed back to Garden City for what they hope will be a successful week at the 2011 Southwest Kansas Pro-Am.
Neal, of Tucson, Ariz., left with the $1,200 winner's payout after slamming home a 30-foot putt on the third extra hole of sudden death to claim the playoff over Mason, of Denver.
The two tied for low pro honors with 2-under-par 70s on a hot, windswept afternoon at the 6,434-yard Bentwood layout.
The event, played for the first time in Ulysses, was sponsored by Pioneer Electric Cooperative. Fourteen teams of three amateurs and a professional comprised the field in the inaugural Ulysses event.
"I think I would have had a fairly easy back up the hill putt if it had not gone in," Neal said. "The last thing I wanted to do was to leave it short."
Neal, in fact, was probably thanking lady luck after his tee shot on the 382-yard hole finished nearly green-high but was less than a yard away from the out-of-bounds fence and behind a small tree, which prevented him from an approach shot directly at the flagstick.
"I was probably lucky that I didn't hit it out-of-bounds," Neal said. "I just played the ball way back in my stance, and after (Mason) hit his shot over the green, my goal was to get on the green just about in the same area where I was earlier so I would know my line and speed."
For Mason, a five-year veteran of the Pro-Am, his round of 70 continued what he called "one of my best seasons as a pro."
"I'm just glad to be playing and I'm playing better than I have in recent years," Mason said. "I had a great group (of amateurs) and I thought the back nine (layout) was just awesome. Lots of good holes, had to hit a lot of different shots in the wind."
Mason is coming off a sixth place finish in the always-tough Colorado Open and said he credited ball-striking improvement and looking at the game differently from a psychological standpoint.
"Before, mentally I couldn't handle playing bad, but now I just take things a lot better," Mason said. "I've tried to just tell myself, 'what's the worst thing that can happen?"
That approach helped Mason finish his regulation round with six birdies and four bogeys, with the bogeys all coming on missed putts of under six feet, caused in part by the 35 mph wind.
"The greens were perfect, but when you're putting in that kind of wind, it makes those short putts very difficult," Mason said.
For Neal, the start to his Pro-Am week couldn't have come at a better time.
He has struggled during the 2011 Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, playing in seven events, missing the cut in three tournaments and earning just $2,808.67 in the remaining four. His highest finish was a tie for 27th.
"I had a good weekend of practice before coming up here," Neal said of his trip from Texas where he spends part of the year playing the Adams Tour events. "I spent a lot of time in Waco (Texas) and worked on hitting shots in the wind."
That effort resulted in seven birdies and five bogeys, including birdies on three of the first four holes.
"It's good to get a little confidence going into the rest of the week," Neal said. "I've got the Ladies (Pro-Am) on Tuesday and then the main tournament starts on Wednesday, so this gives me a boost. Of course, you're playing different courses so I've got to go get ready for those courses."
For Mason, the change the Pro-Am made a year ago to be part of the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series has resulted in his outlook on coming to Garden City.
"This field is much stronger from top to bottom," Mason said. "There was no wind last year and they tore up the courses. If the wind blows later like it did today, something around double-digit under-par would be very good.
"You've just got to go out, play your best and let everything take care of itself."
The amateur team of Randy McCauley, Donovan McCauley and Kirby Garrison also claimed a three-hole playoff win for top honors by defeating the team of Scott Bulkley, Abbi Shaddix and Brady Buxman.
The Pro-Am week continued today with the Ladies Pro-Am, which was scheduled for a 9 a.m. start at The Golf Club at Southwind. The 72-hole tournament tees off on Wednesday at Southwind and continues with pros only on Thursday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
The field of 100-plus pros will be trimmed to the low 45 scores and ties for Friday and Saturday's final 36 holes.
Amateur teams will compete the final two days and are to be paired with different professionals for each round.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.
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