Zack Fischer, a former UTA golfer, buried a 12-foot birdie putt this morning to end a 12-hole, sudden-death playoff with Colleyville resident Ryan Palmer for the final available spot in the U.S. Open field at the Dallas sectional qualifier.
Fischer, 23, made the decisive putt at Lakewood Country Club shortly after Palmer, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, posted his first bogey of an extended playoff that may have been the longest sudden-death session in the history of professional golf.
USGA officials, who oversee the U.S. Open, said they do not keep comprehensive records regarding lengths of sudden-death playoffs to break ties at their qualifying events. But the 12-hole session, spread over two days, took longer to decide than any sudden-death playoff listed in the PGA Tour media guide.
The longest sudden-death playoff in a tour event covered 11 holes at the 1949 Motor City Open and ended after the participants, Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum, agreed to a co-championship when play was suspended because of darkness.
That was not an option for Fischer or Palmer, who matched scores for eight consecutive holes Monday night until play was suspended because of darkness at 8:57 p.m. They returned at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a gallery of approximately 50 fans, to play four additional holes before Fischer broke the tie with his birdie putt at the 18th green.
Palmer, a former Texas A&M golfer and Colonial Country Club member, missed the green from the middle of the fairway with his approach shot and failed to convert a 15-foot par putt moments before Fischer drained his decisive birdie.
“It’s great. It’s fantastic. It’s going to be amazing,” Fischer said, reflecting on his impending debut in a major championship at the U.S. Open, June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
Fischer, who played at UTA from 2007-11, will be the second UTA golfer to play in the Open. Greg Gregory, an Everman High School graduate and former UTA golfer, missed the cut at the 1999 Open.
Although the status is unofficial, Fischer was excited to learn that he may have endured the longest sudden-death playoff in history to secure his spot at Merion.
“Oh, my gosh. We just made history. How cool is that?,” Fischer said. “To be honest, I’m so exhausted right now, it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m sure it will hit me after I go back and take a nap.”
Palmer, who offset one birdie with one bogey during the extended playoff, berated himself for playing substandard golf marked by multiple missed opportunities to close out the two-man playoff.
“I didn’t make any putts,” Palmer said. “What’s really frustrating is … it carries over into today. It’s a crapshoot. What do you do?”
Fischer extended the sudden-death session on the 10th playoff hole with a 25-foot par putt on the 18th green that broke significantly from right to left. On his next trip up the 18th fairway, he secured a berth in the Open as friends, family members and former UTA teammates watched.
Cameron Hollek, who just completed his senior season at UTA, called it “surreal” to watch his former teammate secure a berth in the Open.
“It’s so inspring. I’m stoked for him,” Hollek said. “He’s a competitor. He’s always been clutch.”
_ Jimmy Burch