Brady Schnell’s life changed for the better with three putts on the 18th hole of the Wichita Open on Sunday at Crestview Country Club.
The first came on the final hole of regulation when he drained a 5-footer for par to force a playoff with Brandon Hagy and Scott Pinckney. The second came a few minutes later when he sank a 15-footer for birdie to extend the playoff and eliminate Pinckney. The third earned him his first victory on the Web.com Tour when he made a 10-footer for birdie.
Just like that, Schnell vaulted into the top 15 of the tour’s money list, putting him in excellent position to win his first promotion to the PGA Tour next season.
“That is what we are all striving for,” Schnell said as he clutched the Wichita Open trophy. “That is as good as it gets.”
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Schnell, a former Nebraska golfer, has been chasing this moment throughout his professional career. Sure, he has found success before, including a pair of victories on the PGA Tour’s Latin America circuit. One of those even gave him a spot in the upcoming British Open. But golf has felt stressful the past few months, and he entered the week ranked 68th on the Web.com Tour’s money list.
Something changed when he arrived at Crestview for his first practice round.
Things came easy throughout the week, especially on the green, and he climbed to the top of the leaderboard with rounds of 72, 64, 64 and 66. He entered the final round in third place at 10-under and finished it in first at 14-under.
“It was an odd sense of calm,” Schnell said. “I felt about as comfortable as I could feel on the greens this week, and I was fairly calm over all of my putts on 18 today, all three of them. I guess that is all you can ask for when you are trying to make putts.”
Duplicating that mental state is his new mission.
“I am going to dig a little deeper into that and see if I can figure that out,” Schnell said. “You know, when the putter is really good, it’s confidence and momentum. Down here, you see some putts rolling on the line you want to, and all of a sudden it can make things more comfortable. I think that happens to a lot of people who win.”
Schnell beat out a strong field of golfers to win on Sunday, joining a prestigious group of former champions that includes Tom Lehman, David Duval and Jason Dufner.
He went head-to-head with past winner Sebastian Cappelen and Pinckney in the final group, besting Cappelen by two strokes and matching Pinckney until the playoff. It wasn’t easy. Both his playing partners held an advantage on the first tee and came out making birdies. But he answered back with a bogey-free round that featured four birdies … and then two more in the playoff.
“You have got to tip your hat to Brady,” Hagy said, “making two birdies and pouring two of those in like that.”
Hagy made a serious charge up the leaderboard with a final round 63 that featured seven birdies and an incredible par save on No. 10. On that hole, Hagy clipped a tree 40 yards in front of the tee box trying to cut the corner over a dog leg and ended up in golfing prison.
With no good options, he punched a long iron down the No. 9 fairway and improbably got up and down from 100 yards away to avoid bogey.
“That was one of the best par saves I have ever made,” Hagy said. “Making that putt there was a big momentum boost.”
Hagy walked away with his head held high, even in defeat. The PGA Tour golfer is making a series of rehab starts on the Web.com Tour while he attempts to come back from an injury to his left wrist. And a second-place finish here suggests he is ready to make noise at the next level.
The same is true for Schnell.
He called this victory the top moment in his golfing career, and he appears ready to build on it.
“It was just a lot of fun,” Schnell said. “I had a sense of calm today. I felt like it was my turn. Even though I was battling two guys who have spent a lot of time on the PGA Tour, I felt good about the day and felt comfortable over shots. I just played the shot at hand every time. It was a great feeling.”