UA golfer captures AZ Publinks playoff

A season on the brink of not getting to play for the University of Arizona golf team got a little better for junior Philip Bagdade when he took the weekend off from school to win the Arizona Publinks Championship. Bagdade beat a scrappy Patrick Geare of Tucson on the fourth playoff hole at Randolph Park North.The 21-year-old college kid called the sudden-death encounter “very nerve-wracking” until he holed the winning par putt from 12 feet and watched Geare miss from 8 feet. “I haven’t played particularly well this year, and it cost me my spot on the team,” Bagdade explained. “My first two years at Arizona, I was the No. 4 guy, so this win is big for me and hopefully it will help to turn things around.” The Publinks is the first of four major championships sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association. Bagdade came from four shots back in Sunday’s final round, closing with a 3-under-par 67 and a winning total of 2-under 208. Geare got to the same number with a 70. Another junior on the UA golf team, Kenji Hernandez, missed the playoff by a stroke after ending up with a 71. Scottsdale’s Trey Martin was another shot back in fourth place after his 65 turned out to be the day’s best round. First-round leader Scott Berren of Ahwatukee ended up in a tie for fifth place at 211 following a 73. Austin Quick, a senior at Scottsdale Chaparral who has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State, tied for seventh place at 2 over on a 74. Bryan Hoops, who had led the tournament through 36 holes at 3 under 137, faded with a 77 that dropped him into a tie for 11th. Bagdade and Hernandez were in similar situations. The teammates needed to get some tournament competition in an effort to return to the starting lineup for the Wildcats. But it was Bagdade who walked softly and carried the big stick in the final round. “I hit a lot of good shots in the playoff – had putts to win on the first three holes and missed all three – but Pat just kept hanging in there and doing what he had to do to keep the pressure on me,’’ said Bagdade, who grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where he was a top-rated junior and a high school champ. The shot of they day for Bagdade came at the seventh hole, where he holed out a 60-degree wedge from 70 yards for eagle 2. He missed putts of 8, 5 and 12 feet to win on the first three playoff holes. “Even though I was four shots down to start the day, I knew I had a chance,’’ said Bagdade, who last season was first-team All-Pac 10 – for academics! “When I was in high school I came from five shots back to win the Oregon state championship (2007), so I knew about that. And I think the big thing today was even though I missed a bunch of birdie opportunities, I stayed patient, and I’m pretty proud of that.’’ Geare, who was the 2010 AGA co-player of the year in the Masters division, had a chance to win in regulation but made bogey at the final hole to send it into OT. Born and raised in Tucson with a law degree from the University of Arizona, Geare admitted that his somewhat surprising runner-up finish in the season’s first major was bittersweet. “I would have desperately liked to have won on a course where I hit my first ball,’’ said the 48-year-old Geare, fighting back the emotion. “But, oh, well, golf can be such a mean game. . . . “I guess the good thing is I hung in there, played really solid, putted well and when the disappointment subsides, I’m sure I’ll look back on it in a better light.’’ Always the gentleman, Geare said the difference, ultimately, was Bagdade. “The kid hits the ball 340 yards off the tee, and he can play,’’ Geare said. “My first thought was: Why is this guy not playing for (UA coach) Rick LaRose?’’ Which was funny, because the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Bagdade was thinking along the same line. “This is spring when I really need this the most; right now is our real season,’’ he said of his first win since arriving in Tucson. “I know that my golf game is so close, and this weekend has been rewarding. “To me, it’s great validation for all the hard work I’ve been putting in lately. I mean, this is such a frustrating game. To pull it off is a great feeling.’’