Manny Bhakta, shown here receiving the trophy from Horseshoe Bay Director of Golf Glenn Lee, won the Horseshoe Bay Invitational by making birdie on the first hole of a playoff with Drew Bell. To reach the playoff, Bhakta navigated the back nine of the difficult Ram Rock Golf Course in even par while other players were suffering significant late round bogies or worse.
Standing on the 16 tee Manny Bhakta stated he needed to birdie the last three holes to have a chance at winning the Horseshoe Bay Invitational and that anything could happen in the closing stretch of holes. It did! Playing in the group ahead were Jack Cersosimo (shown below) Chris Hartenstien and Robert Evans. Cersosime was reported to be under par for the day and in the lead. Unknown to Bhakta, Cersosimo had just suffered a triple bogey on #15 and a double bogey on #16. Hartenstien and Evans had faded.
Bhakta selected a driver on 16, the difficult par 4 dogleg right, and hit a tee shot to the left side of the fairway 107 yards from the pin. A second shot 20 feet from the pin and two putts later, he made par and moved on to the 17th, a difficult uphill 211 yard par three. After flaring his tee shot to the right and almost going out of bounds, he chipped on and two putted for a bogey. He then proceeded to hit his drive into the right rough on #18 and play this wedge shot to the green, where it came to rest 20 feet away from the pin.
As his group approached the green, the gallery buzz was that if Bhakta made the putt he would be in a playoff for the championship with Drew Bell who had earlier posted even par 71 on the difficult Ram Rock golf course. Bell and Brian Noonan were the only two players in the field to shoot even par in the second round.
After lining up the downhill right breaking putt, Bhakta sent it on its way. It curled down the hill, took the break and went directly into the center of the cup. Then the waiting began while the scores were confirmed and it was officially determined that a playoff was in order. Both players hit a few balls and waited. Shown here are Drew Bell (left) and Manny Bhakta on the way to the first tee to decide the championship.
The playoff began on #1 with both players hitting the fairway. Drew Bell hit is second shot into a greenside bunker and Bhakta then played about a 70 yard shot to within six feet of the hole. Bhakta liked his chances after the second shots were played. However, Bell gave him a shock when his bunker shot hit the pin and almost went in, guaranteeing Bell a par. Bhakta, who had earlier birdied the 1st hole in regulation play, stepped up and made the birdie putt for the victory.
As is typical of most golf tournaments, players lamented the "what if" scenarios as they scanned the scoreboard. Shown here on the left, Brian Noonan laments two late round bogies that cost him the tournament. Steve Paterson, who was two over par for the tournament headed into the par five 14th thought he was behind and went for the green in two. He eventually posted a quadruple bogey on the hole. Nicholas Cristea, a former winner of the tournament finished one shot behind the leaders after late round bogies. Mike Allen, the first round leader with 69, posted 83 and indicated the wheels came off early in his round, recording three double bogies in the first five holes. He commented that Ram Rock Golf Course is not compatable with poor ball striking.
Congratulations to the Bhakta on his win and to the staff of Horsehoe Bay. The tournament was well run and the courses were in excellent condition.
See the full field scores here.