(Aurora, Colo.) - Ben Lanting had the cards stacked against him going into the final round of the National Car Rental Colorado Assistant PGA Professional Championship on Tuesday, July 31. If Lanting, an Associate Professional from Bear Creek Golf Club in Lakewood, Colo. was going to win, he’d have to take down two of the most decorated champions of the event. After posting an opening round one-under-par 71, Lanting was tied with four-time champion Geoff Keffer, PGA Assistant Professional from the Greater Golf Development Center. He was also going to have to make up three strokes over three-time champion Caine Fitzgerald, PGA Assistant Professional at Meadow Hills Golf Course.
Lanting started the second round on the right foot as he birdied the long par-5 first hole.
“I was able to get on in two at the first,” noted Ben after the round. “That birdie helped calm me down and really helped me get off on the right foot. I made a couple other birdies and ended up three-under. I was hitting it close but wasn’t really making any crazy putts.”
Lanting used that hot start to make the turn tied with Fitzgerald, who posted an even-par 36. While he certainly had the momentum at the halfway point, Lanting had his work cut-out for him on the closing nine as the course firmed up and winds intensified.
“I ran into a little bit of trouble on the back nine. On fifteen, these greens are good but I got on the wrong side of the hole and blew it by six or seven feet. I missed that coming back and ended up with a bogey. Sixteen was a tough hole with the wind blowing right to left. I hit it in the bunker and couldn’t get up and down and made another bogey.”
At that point, Fitzgerald had taken a one-shot lead following a three-putt bogey at the par-4 13th and a birdie at the par-4 15th.
Following two bogeys, Lanting needed the momentum to swing back in his favor if he was going to have a chance against Fitzgerald. That change came at the par-5 17th hole. Fitzgerald lost his drive left and had to settle for a two-putt par after missing a 20-foot birdie putt. Lanting, however, was able to get home in two and made a routine two-putt birdie to pull even with Fitzgerald going into the last hole.
While he had been able to right the ship, Lanting had to battle not only Fitzgerald but also his nerves on the final hole.
“Eighteen is a tough hole and it was tough to feel my hands there to be honest with you,” he noted following the awards ceremony. “I hit my tee shot right down the middle and was between clubs but decided to take the smaller club in the moment and hit it hard. I hit it to about a foot and was able to have a stress free putt to end the day.”
Fitzgerald still had a chance to tie Lanting as he hit his tee shot in a nearly identical spot as Lanting. Fitzgerald, however, drew a tough lie with the ball sitting down a bit and facing a stiff wind, his second shot was short, right of the green in an environmentally sensitive lateral water hazard, requiring a drop and subsequently giving Lanting the biggest win of his young career.
“As far as my golf career, this is number one by a long shot,” he noted. “I won a small event in college (Lanting played at Hope College, a Division III school in Holland, Mich.) and a Pro Am earlier this year but this is was definitely the biggest win of my career.”
The top four finishers qualified for The 42nd National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, which will be played November 15 – 18, 2018, on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Finishing in third place was Pat Grady, the Assistant Coach of the Men’s Golf Team at the University of Colorado. Grady, the 2016 champion, posted rounds of 72-72-144 to punch his ticket to the national championship for the third consecutive year. Keffer and Jordan Gibbs, Assistant Professional from Denver Country Club, finished in a tie for the fourth and final qualifying spot at one-over-par 145. Gibbs was able to birdie the sixth hole of sudden death to claim the final qualifying spot for the National Championship.
For the complete results, please click here.