Bob Rannow rocked all day, and when Ron Ewing rolled a short putt just past the cup on the first playoff hole, Rannow had completed an amazing romp to the championship of the 37th annual Washington Trust Bank Lilac Invitational golf tournament.
Taking advantage of perfect conditions Sunday afternoon, the 27-year old pro playing out of Coeur d’Alene blistered The Fairways with a closing 9-under-par 63 - with a two-stroke penalty - to finish at 16-under 272 and earn an improbable berth in a playoff.
That’s the same left-hander who started Saturday’s play in the 72-hole tournament tied for the lead and shot a front-side 42 enroute to a demoralizing 75 in dropping to 10th place, six strokes back.
“I was so nervous yesterday for some stupid reason. I could feel my heart beating,” the Oregon native said. “What caused me to get nervous yesterday is I went out thinking about external things. Without my caddy, Steve Field, it wouldn’t have been possible. When I had a bad day, he calmed me down. We talked last night about shooting a 62. (Today), Steve and I just stared talking about old rock-and-roll tunes, then we started singing.”
They ended up leaving everyone else singing the blues.
Ewing fired a steady 67, snaking in a 15-foot, uphill birdie putt on No. 18 to get into the playoff with Rannow, who was two groups ahead.
Eric Rustad, who grabbed the lead at 17 under by opening the back side with three birdies, slid a downhill 10-foot par putt past the cup for his second consecutive bogey to miss the overtime.
Mark Wurtz, who was tied for the lead to start the day, also missed the playoff by a stroke.
Rannow and Ewing opened the playoff by driving into the left rough on No. 10. Ewing gave himself a 30-foot putt that he left about 4 feet short. Rannow had a 6-footer he missed for a tap-in par before Ewing knocked his last shot past the cup on the high side.
“I lived and died by my putter all week,” said Ewing, a 28-year old pro out of Merced, Calif., who qualified for last month’s U.S. Open. “It was a good day, it was a patient day. I was just hanging around while everybody was trying to win. I gave myself a chance. I never got up and I never got down and it worked out.”
Until the last three-putt.
Rannow made the turn at 5 under, an 11-stroke improvement from Saturday, and was 8 under at the par-5 14th, an ideal birdie hole. His drive strayed out of bounds on the left. He knocked his second shot, after his second drive, inches past the flag before draining a 5-foot eagle - make that par - putt.
“After that, I told myself to hang in there and keep working for birdies,” he said.
He promptly birdied No. 15.
“What (allowed) me to have some success with the pin placements was I placed the ball so well,” he said.
Rustand played the same way until No. 17.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with my swing all week but I hit some good shots and made some putts. On 15 and 16, I was playing fine,” the pro out of Tucson, Ariz., said. “I didn’t put a good swing on the ball on 17. I knew my position, I didn’t do what I needed to do. The only place you don’t want to go is right.”
He landed in the trap and failed to make the save, dropping him into a tie for the lead.
“On 18, I hit a good drive. I had the club I wanted in my hand,” he said. “I started to go through the mental approach - ‘I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to be here.’ That’s not what I needed to do. I needed to hit a fade and let it go to the hole. I was looking at the water on the left and I hit a weak shot to the right, which is my tendency.”
Rustand left himself a big-breaking, 50-foot downhill putt he couldn’t get close.
“I don’t want to say it was a learning experience when I feel like I do now … but it will help me,” he said. “I’ll come back until I win.”
Darin Danekas, a 21-year-old former two-time state champion from Ritzville, was the low amateur at 3-under 285.
“I just thought it was a great experience to play with the pros … to play with great players from a lot of places,” the senior at Portland State said. “I didn’t play that great the last two rounds, 75-75, but I hung in there to win.”
Defending champion Michael Combs of Kennewick closed hard with an 8-under 64 to finish two strokes back at 274.
Before the final group teed off for the final round, Joe Durgan, who founded the golf tournament, was brought out to the first tee. Durgan, recovering from a stroke, returned to the hospital later in the afternoon. … It was the fifth playoff in Lilac history, the last coming in 1989 when Chris Mitchell won his sixth tournament title of the 80s.
Mark Rypien aced the 172-yard, 13th hole with a 6-iron. … Jason Follen of Tacoma and Dan Frigaard of Spokane tied for the longest drive during the competition Saturday night with blasts of 336 yards.
“The greenskeeper does such a good job,” said Rannow, after his lowest competitive round. “This is the warmest, friendliest tournament in the world.” He finished 11 under last year.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LILAC INVITATIONAl Final scores Sunday of the Lilac City Invitational (x-won on first hole of sudden-death playoff): x-Bob Rannow 66-67-76-63-272 Ron Ewing 67-68-70-67-272 Mark Wurtz 71-67-65-70-273 Eric Rustand 65-69-70-69-273 Michael Combs 75-66-69-64-274 Doug Duchateau 70-69-66-69-274
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