LAS VEGAS, NV – There may be nothing better in mediocre golf than a playoff. Only through the miracle of addition are we able to witness hundreds of golfers, take thousands of shots, each following a completely unique path through 36 holes and end up with two players tied. Those two mere mortals are then thrust into the most pressure-packed situation imaginable; trying to play a game they’re not really that great at to win their first ever World Title, in front of hundreds of drunk assholes. I get excited just thinking about it.
When the MGAWC first moved to Revere 5 years ago and bought out the entire course to accommodate our growing ranks, we thought it was inevitable there would be a playoff every year. We gazed upon the 18th hole and pictured hundreds of obliterated bafoons standing on the hill by the green, shouting cliches and watching two reasonably-adequate duffers battle it out for The Belt. But somehow, year after year, the Belt was won outright. No drama, no added pressure, no piles of trash left strewn around the final green.
But this year, just when it looked like we had another outright winner, one of the final Medios to come in spoke up and said “173? I got that.” And so it came to pass that Pinellas County’s Barry Robinson and OC’s Paul Zambrano would head back to the tee on 18 for the first MGAWC playoff in 5 years.
Because Zambrano got in so late from his round, much of the field had already departed on the busses, thinking Robinson had the win locked. But the hundred or so who were left grabbed a beer and headed to snag their spot on the hill, just as El Presidente had envisioned so many years ago.
In MGA playoffs, each player is allowed to choose a caddy; who may clean their clubs, offer advice and most importantly, open beers for them. Robinson had just come off a great round while sharing a cart with SFMGA’s Matt Telles, so he wanted to keep the magic going and chose Matt as his caddy.
Zambrano chose MGA-stalwart, chapter-mate and memorable-name-guy Bobby Barcelona. The players and their caddies loaded into their carts and headed back to the 18th tee.
Once El Presidente arrived on the scene, he spun a tee and it was decided that Robinson would tee off first. This is how his playoff started.
Once his nerves settled and his caddy was able to stop laughing, Robinson stepped up to hit his shot. For real this time.
Robinson hit a low stinger up the right side of the fairway and did his part to keep the drama and tension alive.
After watching his competitor put one in play, the pressure was squarely on Zambrano to match.
Zambrano more than matched, he hit an absolute peach right down the middle to the 150 stake.
The players then got in their carts and headed up to their balls; the cheers and jeers from the crowd becoming more audible with each passing yard.
Robinson would play first. He had 180, uphill to the green.
He hit a great hybrid that was headed straight at the flag. It would come up just short however and was swallowed up by the green side bunker.
Once again, Zambrano was able to approach his shot with knowledge of what his competitor had already done. All that stood between him and a large advantage was 150 yards and one good swing.
Zambrano addressed the ball and started his swing. Then he went all Tiger on us and stopped mid-swing after a noise broke his concentration. He settled himself, stepped back in and swung. For real this time.
In case you’re not aware of what a good swing looks like, that was it. With all the pressure and distractions, Zambrano managed to get a ball on the green and the crowd went fucking bezerk.
Robinson headed to the green side bunker to evaluate his lie. The lie was decent and Robinson knew he had to stick it close to stay alive.
Unfortunately, we suspect all of Robinson’s good golf came back to bite him, as he likely hadn’t spent much time in the bunkers over the last 36 holes. If he had, he would have known there was little to no give under the top layer of sand. He proved to be a quick study however, as he showed with his next shot.
So now Robinson was laying 4, six feet from the hole after the great sand shot. Meaning Zambrano had two putts for a meagle, the World Championship and The Belt. His first putt was from about 25 feet.
With perfect weight and kinda alright aim, Zambrano put himself in the catbird seat. He was inside Robinson with a one-stroke advantage. Even if Robinson made his putt, Zambrano would have a 2-footer left for the win. Robinson stepped up to try and keep any pressure at all on Zambrano.
The miss meant Zambrano could now two-putt his way to the title. The only pressure that remained, was perhaps even greater than the pressure of losing the match. Zambrano now had to make a 2-footer in front of a hundred drunk shitheads who would razz him to no end if he missed it.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Thank you to all the Chapter Leaders, volunteers and medios who came to Vegas to make this event so epic.
Keep an eye on MGAWC.com for results and updates to trickle out.