Paula Routon has hit thousands of golf shots in becoming one of the city's most accomplished female amateur players.
But never one that tested her nerves like her opening drive in Monday's shootout event that kicked off Wichita Open week at Crestview Country Club.
"This was far more scary than any other first tee I've ever teed off on," Routon said. "Once I got that first one out of the way, I could take a little sigh of relief."
For Routon, a six-time city women's champion, it didn't hurt to have two-time Wichita Open winner Brad Elder as a scramble partner. The pair outlasted six other teams in the six-hole event, with Elder winning a chip-off against fellow Nationwide Tour pro Josh Broadaway on the final hole to claim the $800 first prize.
"All the girls were great," said Elder, who won the Wichita Open in 1999 at Willowbend Golf Club and eight years later at Crestview. "They all played well. All of them are amateurs, so it was probably a little tough, but they held their own."
Elder, the Wichita Open's all-time money leader, and Routon navigated through a series of challenges to win the event witnessed by a crowd of approximately 200. The competition was staged on the back nine of Crestview's North course, where Elder launched a Sunday charge three years ago to win by a tournament-record four shots.
On Monday, Elder nearly holed his tee shot on the 339-yard, par-4 11th, stopping it six feet past the hole. Routon did her part, rolling in the eagle putt.
After surviving the three-team cut after three holes, Elder drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th. But that only started a trend. Tour pro Geoffrey Sisk's playing partner, Alex Beury, answered with a 15-footer for birdie. Then Tommy Gainey's partner, Mikala Payne, matched it with a 13-footer. Then Broadaway's partner, Vicky Heibsch, drained an 8-footer to send the remaining pros into a four-man chip-off, which eliminated Sisk.
The field was cut from three to two teams with a unique chip-off at the par-3 17th. After all of the teams parred the hole, Elder and Broadaway chipped on to the green from a new hospitality tent adjacent to the 17th green. Gainey, winner of the Golf Channel's "Big Break VII" reality TV show, hit a pole on the tent with his shot and was eliminated.
"He should have had the advantage," Elder said, referring to the impromptu situations golfers face on the TV show. "He just caught a bad break."
The two remaining teams parred the par-5 18th, forcing another chip-off. After Broadaway sailed his attempt 20 feet past the hole, Elder softly landed his shot on the green and rolled it within six inches of the cup for the victory.
"Brad played so great, I could kind of coast," Routon said. "You know that the pros are going to be awesome. You just want to play well to help them."
Kemmer survives Monday qualifier, will turn pro — Former Stanford golfer and Wichita native Dodge Kemmer shared medalist honors with Rhein Gibson after both carded 5-under-par 67s at Newton's Sand Creek Station as both earned spots in the Wichita Open field.
Kemmer, 22, has been living in Palo Alto, Calif., since completing his collegiate career. The Wichita Open will give him a chance to start his pro career at the club he grew up playing.
"I'm very excited that I finally have a chance to play in this event," Kemmer said. "I've been watching the Wichita Open at my home course for the last eight to 10 years, and it's even more exciting to be able to make my first start as a pro right here in Wichita."
Former Washburn golfer Ryan Deutsch posted one of three 68s to grab one of the seven available spots at Sand Creek. Kristopher Cox of Dallas fired a 7-under 65 to win the other Monday qualifier at Auburn Hills.
At Auburn Hills
Qualifiers—Kristopher Cox, Dallas, 65; Tyler Leon, Oklahoma City, 67; Michael Schachner, Libertyville, Ill., 67; Kevin O'Connell, Fort Worth, 67; Brendan Gielow, Muskegon, Mich., 68; Jeremy Alcorn, Brownwood, Texas, 68; Nick Rousey, Pensacola, Fla., 68.
At Sand Creek Station
Qualifiers—Rhein Gibson, Oklahoma City, 67; Dodge Kemmer, Wichita, 67; Ryan Deutsch, Lenexa, 68; Nick Malinowski, Frisco, Texas, 68; Jason Shultz, Dallas, 68; Horatio Leon, Tequesta, Fla., 69; Rodney Hamblin, Phoenix, 69.
Shootout results (with pro earnings)
1. Brad Elder-Paula Routon, $800; 2. Josh Broadaway-Vicki Hiebsch, $500; 3. Tommy Gainey-Mikala Payne, $300; 4. Geoffey Sisk-Alex Beury, $300; 5. (tie) Ben Bates-Katy Nugent; William McGirt-Nicole Beury; and Garrett Osborn-Sherrie Wynkoop, $200.