When one weather delay turned into another Sunday at the Principal Charity Classic, Tom Lehman grew antsy as he sat in his West Des Moines hotel room.
He said he felt like a placekicker getting iced by the opposing coach with timeout after timeout before a field-goal attempt.
Lehman, the leader by two shots, got to the point where he couldn’t take it any more. He and his daughter, Rachael, who also caddies for him, headed to Jordan Creek Mall. She was in a store, buying makeup, when Tom’s phone rang.
“Pay for it,” Tom told his daughter. “We’ve got to go.”
Lehman had just received a message that tournament officials were close to making a decision on whether or not the third round would be played.
On the drive to the Wakonda Club, Lehman got another call from Joe Terry, a PGA TOUR Champions rules official. No golf. Father and daughter celebrated.
“As much as you can in a car as you’re driving, yeah,” Lehman said.
Lehman’s record 36-hole score of 131 (66-65), 13 under par for two laps around Wakonda, was good for a two-shot victory over Bernhard Langer, Scott Parel, Glen Day and Woody Austin. Langer was in the hunt for a 38th PGA TOUR Champions title.
“I finally found a way to beat Bernhard Langer,” Lehman joked.
With 13 players within five shots of the lead heading into the final round, Sunday promised to be a day of drama and great golf. This is the first weather-shortened event in the tournament’s 18-year history.
“I feel bad for the fans,” Lehman said. “I think they were going to get a great show with all the low scores.”
Friday’s attendance of 26,465 was a first-round record. Another 26,431 were on hand Saturday. They saw the field average 70.519 shots on Friday, a record low at Wakonda. It lasted one day. The field broke it by averaging 70.195 strokes on Saturday.
“Tom Lehman set a two-day course record, which is a big deal,” said Dan Houston, the chairman, president and CEO of Principal. “Things really went off perfectly the last two days. And I assure you one thing. We’re not going to let the last day of bad weather take away from what has been a fantastic tournament.”
Houston predicted the tournament would pass the record $3,581,427 raised for charity last year.
Lehman has now won 11 times on the PGA TOUR Champions. He won five times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1996 British Open.
“Kind of a hollow victory,” Lehman said. “A backdoor victory. But I’ll take it.”
Lehman had finished eighth or better in his previous six Principal Charity Classic appearances. He’s broken par in all 20 rounds he has played in the event and compiled a sporty 68.43 stroke average.
This victory, on a course he first played in college when he attended the University of Minnesota, serves as bookends of sorts for Lehman’s outstanding career.
“I think I was 19 when I played here for the first time in the (Drake Relays) tournament,” Lehman said.
Lehman won that Drake title. Sunday, the 59-year-old was a winner at Wakonda again.
“So 40 years of golfing experience, going back,” Lehman said. “And so to come back at this level, I think it’s kind of unique. It’s one of those little things that nobody really knows or cares about but the people who were a part of it.”
Lehman said his daughter will get her full share of the winner’s check of $262,500, even though Sunday turned into a day off.
“If I get a full share, she gets a full share,” Lehman said.
Rachael has been an ideal caddie for her dad.
“She doesn’t know that much about golf,” Lehman said. “But she’s extremely supportive.”
Rachael, 28, who is married, loves her current job.
“I’ve always been a daddy’s girl, but it definitely helps to be closer and spent quality time with him,” she said.
It was a winning combination for the Lehmans on Sunday, without a swing of the club.
“It’s nice to win,” said Lehman, the only golfer to ever be named the PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions and Web.com TOUR player of the year. “I have to be honest, 20 years from now no one’s really going to care too much about how you won, but a win’s a win.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter