Des Moines has a way of attracting longshots.
At the 1999 U.S. Senior Open, journeyman Ed Dougherty quickly became a fan favorite at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club when he contended for a career-altering title that slipped away.
A similar storyline developed at the 2014 Principal Charity Classic. Doug Garwood, a conditional PGA TOUR Champions member and another classic longshot, played the role of Dougherty for three days.
But in the end, it was Tom Pernice, Jr., who was the sole survivor. And the final nine holes at Wakonda had enough going on to make a drama queen jealous. Five different players held at least a share of the lead coming home.
Garwood started the final round with a one-shot lead after opening rounds of 68 and 65. Michael Allen was a shot back. Pernice and Mark Calcavecchia trailed by two.
Garwood’s lead ballooned to four shots when he birdied three of Wakonda’s first four holes. But he wasn’t the only player on a roll.
Bill Glasson, who had teed off two hours ahead of Garwood, tied Wakonda’s competitive course record with an 8-under-par 64, despite winds clocked at 15 mph and gusting to 25.
“You never think you’re going to shoot 64,” said Glasson, who finished at 11-under 205. “But I went out there with a pretty good attitude. You never know.”
That 11-under score looked like it might be good enough to win, or at least get in a playoff. Three-time Principal Charity Classic winner Jay Haas also got to 11 under with a closing 67, which included a birdie at the 12th, an eagle at the 13th and another birdie at the 18th.
Calcavecchia joined the group at 11 under after a closing 70, making birdie on the final two holes.
When the final threesome got to the par-3 17th hole, Pernice and Allen were 11 under. Garwood was one shot back. Pernice did himself no favors when he hit his tee shot 15 yards over the green. And then he chipped in for birdie and the outright lead.
“I pride myself in my short game,” Pernice said. “I went to my caddie Freddie (Burns) and said, ‘I might as well chip it in.’ And lo and behold, it went right in.”
After holing the shot, Pernice looked at Burns as if to say, “I told you so.”
Garwood stood over a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and knew he had to make it to have any chance. He did. And he carried that momentum over to the 18th green. Both Garwood and Allen had birdie putts on the final green. Allen just missed his, a 25-footer from the back fringe. But Garwood forced overtime by making his 8-footer.
The playoff started on the 18th, and both players parred. Garwood actually found a greenside bunker with his second shot, but blasted to tap-in range. Pernice missed a 25-foot birdie putt for the win, and they headed back to 18 tee for the second playoff hole.
Garwood ran out of magic. His second shot went over the green, while Pernice stuck his approach to eight feet. Garwood chipped to seven feet, but never got to attempt the putt because Pernice made his for the victory.
“I hit some key shots at key times that kept my day going,” Pernice said. “This is an old classic course. I liked it right from the get-go. I’m happy with how things turned out.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter