Tripp Isenhour, tied with Jay Tewell at the beginning of the final round, shot a 4-under-par 68 and cruised to a two-shot victory at the Kansas Open.
By Robert Sinclair
Journal-World Sports Writer
If Tripp Isenhour had things his way, he would be playing in the Nike Tour event in Dakota Dunes, S.D., this weekend.
Instead, the six-year pro had his way at the 23rd annual Kansas Open, taking home the $12,000 first prize after finishing the 54-hole tournament with a 12-under-par score of 204.
"(The Open) is actually really convenient in the Nike Tour schedule right now," said Isenhour, a resident of Orlando, Fla. "I knew I was going to try and qualify for the Dakota Dunes, which I shot 67 on Monday and missed. I came down here played this, now I go to Omaha and try and play there. It's perfect, really.
"It just fit in perfect if I didn't get in (at Dakota Dunes). Thank goodness I didn't get in now."
Isenhour, who began the final round tied with Jay Tewell at 8-under-par, shot a 33 on the front nine and cruised to a two-stroke victory over Pat Perez. Kansas University sophomore-golfer-to-be Andy Stewart was the low amateur at 3-under-par 213.
After a bogey on No. 13, Isenhour birdied No. 14 and made par on the final four holes.
"You've got to chose your spots, especially on a golf course like this," said Isenhour, who played golf collegiately at Georgia Tech. "You've got to be patient and take what the golf course gives you. I took advantage of the par-5s, birdieing the three of them. If you do stuff like that, you can sit back and be a little more patient and just let the game come to you instead of just trying to force it."
Patience certainly was a virtue throughout the tournament.
After a 5 1/2-hour rain delay Thursday, many of the golfers had to finish their second rounds Friday morning before the final 18 holes.
One of those golfers was Perez, who takes home $6,500 for second place.
"I got up at 6 this morning, which is 4 my time," the San Diego resident said. "I don't usually see 4 unless I'm going to bed. I'm mentally tired right now. I've just been thinking about all the waiting."
Perez, who missed his flight on Friday, couldn't complain about where he finished -- even if he did complain about how he played.
"I really didn't play that good the first two days," Perez said. "I don't know what it was, more luck mainly. Putts dropped and the good things happened. But I really didn't hit it that good. I'm just fortunate to be where I'm at, I guess."
Isenhour also is fortunate to be where he is, considering at one time the Nike Tour regular had quit the game of golf.
"I had my Nike card in '96 and I had a horrible year. Just absolutely horrible," Isenhour said. "I just missed every cut by a shot it seemed like. I decided to quit. I quit playing in September of that year and didn't touch a golf club until May of last year.
"I was not coming back. When I quit I was done for good. There was no intention to come back. But I missed it too much."
After taking a break from golf, Isenhour finally began playing professionally again, but with a re-newed vigor. Instead of being happy just playing golf on the Nike Tour, Isenhour now has his sights set on qualifying for the PGA Tour.
He already has competed in eight Nike Tour events this season, finishing in the top 25 three times. He also won the Trinidad and Tobago Open earlier this year.
Isenhour credited his Kansas Open victory to his new golf instructor, Robert Baker, who also teaches PGA golfers Ernie Els, David Frost, Frank Nobilo and Nick Price.
How does winning the Kansas Open rank in the whole scheme of Isenhour's career?
"I'd say it's No. 2 right now, behind Trinidad," he said. "Obviously, Trinidad had a more international field, there were more Nike Tour players there and I set a tournament record there, too. But this one, I'll tell you, this is second right now. I haven't won a Nike event yet.
"I just think that good things are getting ready to start happening."
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
- For more coverage of the Kansas Open, turn to the Journal-World's website at http://www.ljworld.com.