By TOM LAMARRE
Matt Bettencourt felt sorry for Bob Heintz, but not that sorry.
Bettencourt, who grew up in Alameda, claimed his first PGA Tour victory by one stroke in the Reno-Tahoe Open when Heintz missed a three-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno.
“You hate to see somebody miss one like that at the end, but at the same time I played well enough all week to win, and didn’t feel like I was really getting the bounces I needed until today,” said Bettencourt, who attended Modesto Junior College. “I’m just so excited, I’ll take it any way you can.
“You never pull against anybody out here. My heart goes out to Bob. He’s fought so hard. He hit a good putt. It just didn’t go in, and fortunately this was my time.”
Bettencourt posted a score of 66-68-75-68–277, 11-under par, to collect the $540,000 winner’s check, while Heintz, from Clearwater, Fla., and Yale, finished at 69-68-72-69–278.
Heintz was just happy to be there. Earlier in the week, he was trying to qualify for a Nationwide Tour event in Ohio when he was notified that he was eligible for the field in Reno with the top players on the PGA Tour at St. Andrews for the Open Championship.
“I think it’s my biggest check ever,” Heintz said of his $324,000 prize. “I kind of played like the Bob of old where my survival instincts kicked in and my short game was just shy of brilliant all day. I holed out three times from off the green.”
John Merrick of Long Beach and UCLA shot 69-68-73-69–279 and tied for third with
Mathias Gronberg of Sweden, who wound up at 69-72-69-69–279.
Kevin Stadler of San Diego and USC totaled 70-67-73-70–280 to tie for fifth with Craig Barlow of Henderson, Nev., who finished at 69-72-67-72–280.
Bill Lunde of San Diego and UNLV carded a score of 69-68-73-71–281 and tied for 10th with Paul Stankowski of Oxnard and Texas-El Paso, who finished at 71-70-70-70–281.
Todd Fischer of Pleasanton and the University of San Francisco shot 69-70-75-70–284 and tied for 21st with John Mallinger of Escondido and Long Beach State, who came in at 69-67-71-77–284.
Ben Fox of Studio City and the University of Arizona tied for 26th at 73-71-69-72– 285, while Jeff Quinney of Eugene, Ore., and Arizona State totaled 72-69-70-75–286 to tie for 31st with Graham DeLaet of Boise State and Canada, who wound up at 70-76-62- 78–286.
Scott McCarron of Sacramento and UCLA, the 54-hole leader, tied for 35th at 70-69-67-81–287, Rich Barcelo of Long Beach and the University of Nevada tied for 39th at 71-69-75-74–289, and Skip Kendall of UNLV and Orlando, Fla., tied for 59th at 75-70-74-75–294.
Robin Freeman of Coronado and the University of Central Oklahoma shot 73-71-78- 76–298, and tied for 67th with Roger Tambellini of Templeton and USC, who wound up at 67-71-72-78-77–298.
Bettencourt took control by playing the first 11 holes of the final round in 5-under par, holing a seven-foot eagle putt on No. 11, and added a five-foot birdie putt out of the sand on No. 17 to take a two-stroke lead to the final hole.
Then he nearly gave it away.
His tee shot with a hybrid club found a bunker on the right side of the fairway and his approach landed in a deep greenside bunker. Bettencourt blasted out to within 11 feet, but missed the putt to card a bogey.
Then he watched Heintz miss.
“Matthew (Achatz, his caddie), said, ‘Look, he’s got an easy putt, there’s no chance he’s going to miss it,'” Bettencourt said. “‘Let’s regroup, go out, we’ll hit a much smarter tee shot on 18 and we’ll go make birdie in the playoff.’
“He calmed me down, and that’s what I was ready to do, ready to go back there and give it my best.”
That said, he wasn’t sorry he didn’t have to do it.
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