One-time PGA Tour winner edges nephew of former NFL punter for Arizona Open title

Julia Stumbaugh/The Arizona Republic

One-time PGA Tour winner edges nephew of former NFL punter for Arizona Open title

Golf

One-time PGA Tour winner edges nephew of former NFL punter for Arizona Open title

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Julia Stumbaugh is a sports reporter for The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.

When the final round of the 76th Arizona Open presented by Ping kicked off on a cloudy Wednesday morning at the Superstition Mountain Golf Course in Arizona, PGA Tour member Charlie Beljan was two strokes off the lead.

Tied for third place, the Mesa, Ariz., native knew he had to make up ground if he wanted to redeem himself from last year, when he tied for second in the same tournament. On the first hole, he birdied.

On the next hole, he made another birdie. On the next, another.

“I got out to a dream start,” Beljan, 34, said. “I birdied the first three holes and five of the first six. You can’t ask for anything more.”

His impressive start helped him surge ahead of the pack, and by the end of the day, Beljan would claim the 76th Arizona Open championship with a one-shot win over Zach Smith.

Michael Feagles, 21, of Scottsdale, was low amateur after finished third, two shots back. His 63 on Wednesday was a final-round record in the 76-year history of the Arizona Open, beating the old mark by 2 shots.

Despite Beljan’s strong start, Smith, another Arizona-born golfer who was playing his first event as a professional, kept pace after starting the day at 11-under par.

Charlie Beljan holds the trophy after winning the 76th Arizona Open at Superstition Mountain. Photo: Mike Schoaf/Southwest PGA

Heading into the turn, Beljan over-putted a few holes, missing birdies by a matter of inches. At the turn, he sat just one stroke ahead of Smith.

Beljan and Smith were rarely more than a stroke or two apart, with Smith hot on Beljan’s heels throughout the entire round. Beljan, however, says he never knew how close it was.

“I never looked at the scores to see what anybody did,” Beljan said. “I just played my own game, and came out one or two strokes ahead.”

Heading into hole No. 18, Beljan was 16-under-par; Smith, one hole behind, sat at 14 under. Beljan was hoping to pad his lead by a stroke or two, but things went awry off his final tee.

“I didn’t have enough club to get to the green,” Beljan said. “So, unfortunately, I had to lay it up and then almost made the putt for birdie, but then made a par.”

With Smith two strokes behind and one hole to go, he needed an eagle to tie Beljan and send the tournament into a sudden-death playoff. Smith, unlike Beljan, had been watching the scores closely. As he teed up for the last time, he knew what was at stake.

“I saw that I was kind of one behind him almost the whole day, so I tried toake some chances but still not play too aggressive,” Smith said.

Two strokes in on the par-5 hole, Smith found his ball in the fringe. With Beljan watching from the sidelines, Smith chipped the ball up and got it within inches of the hole, coming just short of the eagle he needed to catch Beljan.

“It was a sigh of relief, but at the same time, I was ready to go back to a playoff if I had to,” Beljan said.

Beljan finished the three-day tournament going 69-66-65-200 on the par-72 Superstition Mountain course, and earned the first-place prize of $16,000.

Even after missing a head-to-head playoff by inches, Smith (67-66-68-201) was all smiles as he shook Beljan’s hand after the tournament.

“It was my first tournament as a pro, so I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” Smith said.

Michael Feagles, who plays for the University of Illinois, was the low amateur at the 2019 Arizona Open. Photo: Mike Schoaf/Southwest PGA

Coming in third was Michael Feagles, a Scottsdale-born amateur who plays for the University of Illinois. Feagles started out the day at 5 under. By the end of his 18th hole, he was at 14 under, having put up eight birdies and one eagle on his way through the course.

“I practice a lot of the time with some really good players, some good professionals, so it wasn’t too abnormal for me to be playing with some guys that do it for a living,” said Feagles, whose uncle is former NFL punter Jeff Feagles. “But at the same time, it’s always nice to compete at the highest level. … I just kept the ball in play, kept it in the fairway and gave myself some chances.”

Feagles jumped 16 places up the standings with his final round 63, the low round of the week, and ended the tournament as the lowest-scoring amateur (14-under 202).

 A PGA Tour player since 2012, Beljan has eyed the Arizona Open title ever since he won the Arizona Amateur in 2006.

“I’ve been wanting to win this tournament for a long time,” Beljan said. “To finally do it being an Arizona native and a local boy, to be able to put my name on that trophy is really special. So, I’m really happy.”

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