Lee University golfer Hunter Vest wins Brainerd title in playoff

Lee University golfer Hunter Vest wins Brainerd title in playoff

May 7th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Golf

Hunter Vest won the Brainerd Invitational golf tournament Sunday.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Hunter Vest watched at Caleb Roberson and Neil Spitalny missed par putts on the second playoff hole.

But Vest had to make his putt on the second green as cars passed on Moore Road next to the second hole at Brainerd Golf Course.

He did. And Vest, a sophomore at Lee University, won to claim his first area amateur tournament championship.

"It feels pretty good to win," said Vest, while waiting for the trophy ceremony. "I think my best finish in a college tournament was a second last year in Kentucky."

Vest, Roberson -- who is his roommate at Lee University -- and Spitalny each reached the playoff after shooting 8-under 136 over Saturday and Sunday.

Former Lee golfer Brandon Cissom and Brainerd Golf Course employee Mike Dunn tied for fourth at 137.

They did so on a day where if leaderboards were placed on the course as they are at professional events, the boards would have changed often on Sunday afternoon.

Dunn began the day in the lead. Roberson owned it at 9 under at one point -- by at least three over Spitalny -- as they played the back nine. Vest shared it twice.

Robertson, who won the tournament in 2010, flirted with the lead after beginning the day at 4 under.

The final grouping of Dunn, Vest, Roberson and Robertson made nine birdies, an eagle and just three bogeys on the front nine.

They were competing against themselves without knowing -- no leaderboards, just word-of-mouth -- what other players including Spitalny were doing in front of them.

"It was fun," Roberson said. "We were making a lot of birdies."

He seemed to be in control after a birdie on the par-5 13th which put him one shot better than Vest. Robertson fell out of contention with consecutive bogeys. Dunn seemed to be done after a bogey at No. 16. Roberson dropped a stroke after dunking his ball on No. 17 setting up drama on the final hole.

They all knew that Spitalny posted a score of 8-under, and he swatted a few balls to keep warm and prepare for a potential playoff.

Spitalny is the surgeon charged with illegal gambling and possession of a gambling device -- misdemeanor charges -- in the April 14th raid on a poker game, and the doctor who provided immediate care to a police-shooting victim at the time.

On the final hole of regulation, Vest needed an eagle to win. Roberson and Dunn needed eagles to tie Spitalny.

Dunn lipped-out his eagle putt from the top tier to the bottom, an almost impossible putt, which eliminated him.

"In my mind, I was done long ago," Dunn said. "But then I had a chance at a putt I've never seen before and it only caught the lip."

Vest left his eagle-putt some six feet short but made the birdie to tie Spitalny. And Roberson, who chipped-in hours ago on No. 7 eyed his 10-foot chip to tie.

He made the shot to make the playoff.

"It was as straight as could be," Roberson said.

Vest, Spitalny, and Roberson all parred the first playoff hole. Then Vest nestled his first putt on the par-3 No. 2 close enough to watch the other competitors close with a bogey.

Vest won.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.