Senior PGA Tour rookie Sammy Rachel wins The Transamerica
Last October, Sammy Rachel had a significant victory.
This October, Rachel added another.
The Senior PGA Tour rookie made a 30-foot putt for eagle on the final hole for a one-shot victory at The Transamerica Oct. 14 over Ray Floyd and Doug Tewell.
“I did what every golfer wants an opportunity to do – to make a 30-foot eagle putt to win it,” said Rachels, who won the Southern PGA Club Professional Championship last October. “Very, very cool.” (Rachels did not play the Club Pro Championship in June at Sunriver, Ore., because he qualified for the Senior Tour in fall 2000.)
The final putt wasn’t so easy.
After hitting a 5-iron on the 500-yard, par-5 closing hole from 202 yards to 30 feet, Rachels’ caddie and son, Sam, thought the putt broke right.
“I thought it broke left,” said Rachels, who won the national Club Pro Championship in 1994. “I just decided to compromise. Like they always say, when in doubt, hit it straight.”
Rachels finished at 14-under 202 after a closing 69. Floyd shot 8-under 64 and Tewell shot 66. Rachels won $195,000 for his second victory of 2001. He won the BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland in June.
Rachels joined Bruce Lietzke as the only rookies to win more than once on tour this year.
After a PGA Tour career that spanned 1975-85, Rachels designed and built courses before qualifying for the tour last year. After winning the BellSouth Classic, he hurt his back and was sidelined for six weeks. His back ailments started as a youth when he worked on his family’s farm.
“I took up golf because of fear of real work,” Rachels said. “It wasn’t the loftiest of notions, but it was a strong one. The pay is much better out here than farming back home.”
When the tournament’s final group – John Mahaffey, Allen Doyle and Rachels – had five holes remaining, 11 golfers were within two strokes of the lead, including seven who were one behind Mahaffey.
Then things really got wild on the South Course at the Silverado Country Club.
Rachels birdied No. 14 at the same time Floyd birdied 17, moving both to 12 under and into a tie with Mahaffey. Tewell shortly birdied 16 to create a four-way tie for the lead.
When Irwin eagled No. 18, he was the leader in the clubhouse at 12 under. Floyd immediately grabbed the lead with his eighth birdie on No. 18 to go to 13 under.
Tewell tied him two groups later with a tap-in birdie on No. 18.
After missing a short birdie putt on No. 16, Mahaffey all but ended his chances with a bogey on No. 17.