Most golfers, at some point in their lives, have rolled up their car to a putting green and blasted the headlights, hoping to get a few extra putts in on a summer's night. The PGA Tour qualifier into the RSM Classic took that concept a step further on Monday.
A large field and slow pace at Brunswick Country Club translated to a late start for an 8-for-1 playoff, with the sudden death not teeing off until 15 minutes before sunset. Matt Atkins, Luke Guthrie, Andrew Novak, Jordan Niebrugge, John VanDerLaan, Adam Svensson, Erik Barnes and A.J. Morris all turned in five-under 65s to earn entry into overtime, and were split into two groups.
Guthrie, Atkins and Svensson advanced with birdies at Brunswick's par-4 first hole, with Svensson getting knocked out via bogey at the second playoff hole, the par-3 eighth. Despite the pitch-dark confines, Guthrie and Atkins decided to forge on to the ninth, aided by someone pulling up a truck to illuminate the green.
Both players found the green and were wayward with their birdie tries. A Guthrie three-putt bestowed an opportunity to Atkins, with the 28-year-old converting his remaining five feet for par for the victory.
“I was excited and happy that I qualified,” Atkins told the Golf Channel, “but I felt bad because you hate to see anybody lose or not advance in that kind of fashion because it was an extreme situation.
“But what a cool experience regardless of the result. What a cool thing to be a part of.”
The victory comes at a crossroads of sorts for Atkins. He hasn't played in a PGA Tour event in a year, and doesn't have status on the Korn Ferry Tour next season, making Monday's achievement all the more imperative. "All you need is one,” Atkins said.
Or perhaps his game, after years in the dark, is finally seeing the light.