Mike Ferris wins 64th AT&T Arizona Open in Playoff

No offense to Bill Murray and his famous fictional story from the movie Caddyshack, but Mike Ferris turned out to be a real life “Cinderella story.” This narrative of an unknown golfer, who comes out of nowhere to lead the pack, isn’t about a former greens keeper who triumphs at Augusta National to win the Masters. Instead, it’s about an improbable Desert Mountain staff member from Scottsdale who wins $20,000 and, more importantly, the 64th AT&T Arizona Open on September 13 at the par 72, 7,211-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed Apache Course at Desert Mountain.{mosimage}

Despite having little to no professional tournament experience, Ferris easily eagled the first playoff hole with a four foot putt to beat Phoenix resident Greg Bruckner and win the championship.

Barry Conser of Scottsdale and Matt Maskel of Phoenix tied for third at 16-under, while Scott Anderson of Scottsdale finished fifth at 15-under.


A WIRE TO WIRE WIN

Ferris, who shot 63-65-68—198, led after 18, 36 and 54 holes.

Not only was he good enough to outlast Bruckner, he outperformed 143 other top area golf professionals and amateurs. They included veterans like Scott Frisch, a top Southwest Section PGA performer and club professional who doubles as the head golf professional at the Apache Course.

Frisch finished seven strokes behind Ferris.

Ferris also bested men like Don Yrene, the five-time Southwest Section Player of the Year, an uber club pro from the Golf Club Scottsdale who played in the 2008 PGA Championship and made the cut as low club professional in the 88th PGA Championship.

Ferris thumped Yrene, Paul Trittler, who played in the 2008 FBR Open, and Dean Vomacka, who won the 2008 Southwest Section PGA Championship at Oro Valley Country Club in August.

He beat them by 13 strokes.

Ferris also beat numerous mini-tour studs and heralded amateurs. Desert Mountain member Philip Francis, who was 2-over par, lost to Ferris by 20.

Maybe Ferris forgot to notice that the AT&T Arizona Open has been won by guys like Arizona Golf Hall of Famer Johnny Bulla, Todd Demsey, a PGA Tour pro, R.W. Eaks, a Champions Tour winner, or Danny Briggs, a three-time AT&T Arizona Open winner.


A DRAMATIC ENDING

What’s even more impressive was that Ferris, only 24, ended the state’s second longest running professional tournament in dramatic style.

After watching Bruckner easily birdie the 54th hole in regulation to get to 18-under, Ferris topped him with a 15-foot birdie putt for a 68 to tie his playing partner.

Standing over the putt, Ferris later admitted he was a bundle of nerves.

Bruckner called it, simply, great tournament golf.

“It was smart of him to lay up (in regulation) because it put pressure on me,” Bruckner, who reached in two on the par 5, said. “I had 223 (yards) to the hole, a perfect 21 degree (hybrid) for me. I kept my emotions in check and it put pressure on him.”

After Bruckner just missed his eagle putt, which would have won the tournament in regulation, Ferris needed to make a pressure putt to force the playoff.

The left to right slider was never in doubt.

Ferris even raised his flat stick in the air just before it rolled in.

“It all came down to that putt on No. 18,” Ferris said, matter of fact. “I was able to roll it in. This was one of the best putting weeks I’ve ever had.”{mosimage}

THE ONE-HOLE PLAY OFF

The two players returned to the par 5, 533-yard 18th for a sudden death playoff.

But this time Ferris bombed his drive 40 yards past Bruckner, leaving a much easier second shot to the narrow green. “I ripped my drive the second time,” Ferris said. “And I had a perfect number going in and felt really comfortable with the shot.”

Bruckner, the 2003 champion, played first. He had 251 yards left on his approach. Though the 46-year-old hit it high, straight and pure, it landed just short of the green.

His 3-wood hit a boulder in front of the putting surface and caromed dead right. When Bruckner found it a few minutes later, he knew he was in deep trouble near the cart path, well below the green with rock, cactus and a bunker in his path.

But the veteran didn’t regret taking the risk. “I knew he had a six or five iron in and I wasn’t comfortable laying up,” Bruckner said.

Ferris, playing his second shot from the middle of the fairway, had just over 200 yards. His perfect approach landed four feet from the hole, ending any suspense. He later said only the birdie putt on the 54th hole was better.

Bruckner was impressed.

“The way he was putting I wanted to try to get it as close as possible,” Bruckner said. “I couldn’t get lucky twice.”

On the back nine Ferris birdied No. 12, a par 3, from eight feet, to get to 17-under. His three-shot lead over Bruckner didn’t last long though.

Bruckner birdied 13 and 14 with laser like approaches and deft putting. After Ferris bogeyed No. 14, they shared the lead at 16-under par.

Ferris made a 15-footer on the par 3 15th to take the lead again.

They both birdied No. 16. “I was nervous the whole day,” Ferris said. “We were going back and forth all day. It was crazy.”

Ahead of them, on the back nine, Barry Conser, who shot 65, and Matt Maskel, who shot a 66, tied Ferris at 17-under. But neither one was able to get to 18-under.

In front by one entering the penultimate hole, Ferris three-putted from long range on the par 3 17th, while Bruckner made par.

Then came the dramatic birdie on the 54th hole and an eagle on the first playoff hole. It was the perfect ending to Ferris’ Cinderella story.


A TOP JUNIOR GOLFER

Mike Ferris, a standout junior player, was captain of his golf team at Mountain Ridge High in Glendale. He won the 2002 Phoenix City Championship and represented Arizona at the 2002 America’s Cup. 

Taught by former LPGA Tour player Penny Pulz from age 13 to 16, he also took lessons from veteran Southwest Section PGA teaching professional Scott Watkins for a few years.

A golf scholarship to California State San Bernardino was offered to Ferris after high school. He moved out of the state for a promising college career.

Then bad luck arrived, in the form of a health scare. 

Ferris left college after a year due to what he describes as “personal problems” related to his health—and didn’t pick up a club for a long time.

Sean Ferris, Mike’s brother, who also lives in Scottsdale, is the assistant executive director at the Junior Golf Association of Arizona. He said Mike went to Paradise Valley Community College and then Arizona State, but didn’t play golf.

“I helped him get a job at Desert Mountain,” Sean Ferris said, “so he could get back into the game. It has worked out well.”

Ferris, an apprentice in the PGA program, said he loves working at Desert Mountain, where he’s been since late 2005. Now he might try his luck on the mini-tours, but continue to work at the private club.

“I went away from the game for a while,” Ferris said, “and then got back into it working here at Desert Mountain.”

He said his mental approach to the game is a key part of his recent success.

“I had an inner belief in myself the last couple months,” he said. “These last two tournaments (he won Desert Mountain’s 2008 staff championship) I’ve committed myself to going out and winning.”

It’s like Bill Murray would say: an unknown golfer who comes out of nowhere to lead the pack.

Southwest PGA – 64th AT&T Arizona Open  

Dates: Sep 11 - Sep 13
Course: Desert Mountain - Apache (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Desert Mountain - Apache (Par: 72 Distance: 7,211) 

 1 Mike Ferris    Scottsdale, AZ   
 63-67-68--198 -18    $20,000.00
 2 Greg Bruckner  Phoenix, AZ 
 63-69-66--198 -18    
 $10,000.00   
 T3 Barry Conser 
 Scottsdale, AZ  69-66-65--200 -16  $6,000.00
 T3 Matt Maskel   Phoenix, AZ  69-65-66--200 -16  $6,000.00
 5 Scott Anderso  Scottsdale, AZ  66-65-70--201 -15  $3,500.00
 T6 Chris Endres    Anthem, AZ  72-69-62--203 -13  $2,750.00
 T6 Glen Griffith  
 Tucson, AZ  65-68-70--203 -13  $2,750.00
 8 Todd Demsey  
 Scottsdale, AZ  72-68-64--204 -12  $2,000.00
 T9 Jake Grodzinsky  Cornville, AZ  66-71-68--205 -11  $1,700.00
 T9 Scott Frisch  Scottsdale, AZ  66-70-69--205 -11  $1,700.00
 T11 Craig Hocknull  Gilbert, AZ  69-69-68--206 -10  $1,450.00
 T11 Tom Kalinowsk  Scottsdale, AZ  68-68-70--206 -10  $1,450.00
 T13 Bob Mann  Surprise, AZ  66-70-72--208 -8  $1,275.00
 T13 Greg Harmon   
 Mesa, AZ  67-68-73--208 -8  $1,275.00
 T15 Yong Joo   
 Orlando, FL  70-71-68--209 -7  $1,187.50
 T15 Paul Nolen   
 Marana, AZ  70-70-69--209 -7  $1,187.50
 T15 Steve Schneiter  Sandy, UT  65-73-71--209 -7  $1,187.50
 T15 Jon Chaffee   
 Scottsdale, AZ  70-65-74--209 -7  $1,187.50
 T19 Jerry Smith  
 Scottsdale, AZ  70-68-72--210 -6  $1,087.50
 T19 Casey Bourque  
 Phoenix, AZ  70-68-72--210 -6  $1,087.50
 T19 Brandon Smith  
 Tucson, AZ  72-73-65--210 -6  $1,087.50
 T19 Blayne Hobbs  
 Scottsdale, AZ  68-67-75--210 -6  $1,087.50
 T23 Paul Trittler  
 Scottsdale, AZ  68-73-70--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Tim Matthews  
 Scottsdale, AZ  70-71-70--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Matt Miller  
 Bloomington, IL  71-69-71--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Dean Vomacka             
 Oro Valley, AZ  72-70-69--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Chris Kessler (A) 
 Scottsdale, AZ  69-70-72--211 -5  
 T23 Seth Porter  
 Surprise, AZ  71-72-68--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Greg Casagranda   
 Pauma Valley, AZ  70-69-72--211 -5  $950.00
 T23 Don Yrene   
 Scottsdale, AZ  67-66-78--211 -5  $950.00
 T31 Jay Synkelma    Tucson, AZ  70-70-72--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Randy Wittig  
 Cave Creek, AZ  71-69-72--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Brandon Barren (A)  Centennial, CO  69-73-70--212 -4  
 T31 Greg Avant  
 Chandler, AZ  74-69-69--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Brent Griffin  
 Phoenix, AZ  68-71-73--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Bob Lendzion  
 Las Vegas, NV  73-71-68--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Danny Briggs   
 Franklin, TN  72-72-68--212 -4  $787.50
 T31 Scott Brace (A) 
 Phoenix, AZ  74-71-67--212 -4  
 T39 Mark Baker   
 Scottsdale, AZ  73-69-71--213 -3  $675.00
 T39 Colby Myers  
 Scottsdale, AZ  73-66-74--213 -3  $675.00
 T39 Julien Trudeau   
 Tempe, AZ  72-71-70--213 -3  $675.00
 T39 Benjamin Marsh (A)  Phoenix, AZ  71-67-75--213 -3  
 T43 Damon Krause  
 Mesa, AZ  71-70-73--214 -2  $600.00
 T43 Ralph West  
 Litchfield Park, AZ  70-70-74--214 -2  $600.00
 T43 Nick Krattiger (A)
 Mesa, AZ  70-73-71--214 -2  
 T43 Brett Upper 
 Scottsdale, AZ
 73-70-71--214 -2  $600.00
 T47 Pete Jordan 
 Fountain Hills, AZ  73-68-74--215 -1
 $490.00
 T47 Wade Dunagan  
 Tucson, AZ  73-68-74--215 -1  $490.00
 T47 Dale LeBlanc   
 Scottsdale, AZ  74-69-72--215 -1  $490.00
 T47 Jason Schram  
 Cave Creek, AZ  68-70-77--215 -1  $490.00
 T47 Josh Esler   
 Wauconda, IL  72-72-71--215 -1  $490.00
 T47 Ricky Haag  
 Avondale, AZ  72-73-70--215 -1  $490.00
 T47 Russell Thorton (A) 
 Scottsdale, AZ  73-72-70--215 -1  
 T54 Adam Winwood (A)  Phoenix, AZ  73-70-73--216 E  
 T54 Michael Wog (A)  Scottsdale, AZ  69-75-72--216 E  
 T56 Mike Wright   Gilbert, AZ  72-71-74--217 +1  $415.00
 T56 Brad Thompson   
 Scottsdale, AZ  69-74-74--217 +1  $415.00
 T56 Marty Jertson   
 Cave Creek, AZ  75-70-72--217 +1  $415.00
 T56 William Dodd Jr   
 Phoenix, AZ  75-70-72--217 +1  $415.00
 T60 Mike Franko  
 Scottsdale, AZ  74-68-76--218 +2  $390.00
 T60 Philip Francis (A)  Scottsdale, AZ  74-71-73--218 +2  
 62 Ben Weir 
 Scottsdale, AZ  69-73-77--219 +3  $385.00
 63 Antonio Noriega  
 Mesa, AZ  71-73-76--220 +4  $380.00
 64 Shanker Natarajan   Queen Creek, AZ  70-74-77--221 +5  $375.00
 65 Jerry Huff (A) 
 Mesa, AZ  75-69-78--222 +6  
 66 Drew Hassler  
 Phoenix, AZ  73-70-80--223 +7  $370.00

 

 

 

 

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