Having lost in a playoff at the tournament two years ago, Creel ensures extra holes aren’t needed this time by rolling in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole
If a guy from Utah couldn’t win the 30th edition of the Utah Championship golf tournament, one of the more prestigious and longstanding events on the Korn Ferry Tour, a fellow from Wyoming is probably the next best thing.
That’s especially true when the native of Cheyenne suffered a heartbreaking loss in a playoff at Oakridge Country Club two years ago.
Joshua Creel, 31, made sure the event presented by Zions Bank and hosted by the Utah Sports Commission wouldn’t go to extra holes this time around, making a clutch 30-foot putt on No. 18 to seal his first KFT win.
“Yeah, I am pumped,” Creel said on the 18th green an hour or so after making the big putt and receiving not one, but two trophies for the victory. “I don’t know if you were out here two years ago, but it was pretty disappointing to lose in a playoff, so to right that wrong and get it done today was pretty fun.”
Creel finished at 24-under 260, two shots clear of Hayden Buckley, Taylor Montgomery and Peter Uihlein. Former Fremont High and BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn, from nearby Ogden and the only one of three Utahns in the tournament to make the cut, shot a 65 Sunday and tied for 35th.
The strong showing only moves Fishburn from No. 82 to No. 81 on the KFT points list, so he will need a phenomenal showing next week in Omaha to get into the top 75 and qualify for the three-tournament KFT finals.
Creel, who was 64th on the points list entering the tournament, probably needs to “finish first or second” next week to get into the top 25 and secure his PGA Tour card for next year, but he cautioned everyone to not count him out. He moved up to No. 32.
“You never know,” he said. “I am playing good golf, so we will see what happens.”
What happened on a smoky Sunday in Farmington was impressive, as the new father-to-be shot 63-68-65-64 to record what he said is easily the top accomplishment of his golf career.
“Number one, for sure,” he said. “Hands down, yup.”
Creel was presented with the oversized $108,000 winner’s check on the 18th green after the win, but he couldn’t help to flash back to the same spot two years ago.
In his playoff with Kristoffer Ventura, he had an 8-foot putt on No. 18 to win on the first playoff hole, but it lipped out and he eventually lost on the third playoff hole, No. 10 at Oakridge (No. 1 for Oakridge members).
How poetic was it?
“Yeah, absolutely (poetic),” he said, “because that feeling walking from the 10th green back up to the tee after losing is one you don’t really want ever, so I was determined to not feel that way again.”
When the putt Sunday on 18 fell to pretty much ensure Creel would win playing out of the second-to-last grouping of the day, the Wyoming native pumped his fist a couple times and let out a roar.
His description: “About 30 feet, a little right to left, uphill. I wasn’t going to leave it short, and I hit a good putt and it went right in the middle, I think. I don’t really remember.”
Creel certainly remembered what happened after he signed his card, and after Uihlein failed to hole out from the fairway while playing in the last group with Montgomery.
Friends greeted him with a beer shower, and he was still soaking a half-hour later while describing the wild scene on the 18th green.
“Yeah, it was great,” he said. “Typically I don’t like beer poured on me, but I will make an exception.”
Creel, who led Central High in Cheyenne to four-straight state titles before playing collegiately at Central Oklahoma and briefly at Colorado, planned to fly home to Oklahoma City on Sunday night because his wife is scheduled to have an ultrasound on Monday in OKC.
Tuesday, he will make the six-hour drive to Omaha.
“It is weird when you have big life events,” he said. “When I have had something significant happen, I have played better for whatever reason. This little boy is going to be a big blessing.”
Buckley, the former Missouri standout, zoomed up the leaderboard Sunday by shooting a 10-under 61 to tie the course record.
Steven Alker, the 2013 Utah Championship winner when it was held at Willow Creek Country Club, also flirted with the course record. But he made a bogey on No. 18 and settled for a 63.
Alker caught a break when his approach on No. 18 hit a Golf Channel employee behind the green and stopped there instead of going beyond the cart path, but he couldn’t get up and down after a free drop and finished in a three-way tie for fifth with Matt Oshrine and Seth Reeves, who bolted out of town immediately after firing a 65 to get back to Atlanta and tend to his expecting wife, whose water broke late Saturday night.