They can't believe it's Buttar

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Blair Buttar's tournament-winning putt hadn't even hit the bottom of the cup yet and you could already hear the whispers all over Northern Bear Golf Club.

It sounded like Fabio had screwed up the lines in his latest margarine commercial.

"I can't believe it's Buttar! I can't believe it's Buttar!"

Nobody could. Not when former Canadian Tour player Stu Hendley, with six holes to play and a comfortable four-shot lead, had the Morgex Edmonton Open all but won.

Then came the drama. Or, in Hendley's case, the melodrama. In an uncharacteristic, but thoroughly spectacular collapse, Hendley finished bogey, bogey, double bogey and didn't even make the two-man playoff.

On this day, he says, Stu was short for stupid.

"What I just did was a freaking joke," said Hendley, so disgusted he could barely spit the words out. "Bogey, bogey, double? I mean, bogey, bogey, bogey and I'm in a playoff. Bogey, bogey, par and I win. All I had to do was shoot 75 to win. I can play like crap and shoot 75."

TIED FOR THIRD

Instead, he shot 77, following a front nine 36 with a disastrous 41. The 147 total (70-77) left him tied for third, one shot behind Buttar (75-71-146) and Glendale amateur Jeff Couch (76-70-146), who settled things in a three-hole playoff.

"I kind of back-doored that one a little bit," grinned Buttar, who wasn't even going to stick around after turning in his scorecard. "They had us by a couple of shots with two or three to go. We didn't think we had a chance. We were on the patio, were going to have a beer and take off.

"When you're five back (to start the day) you think that Stu Hendley is going to finish it off."

The top two spots weren't entirely gift-wrapped, Couch and Buttar were the only two players in the field to break par on a fiercely long (over 7,400 yards) and difficult track, but it wouldn't have been possible without Hendley's back nine blow-up.

"I've been doing this for 20 years, more than any of the other guys out here, and that finish is a disgrace," seethed Hendley. "The tournament I was going to be playing in North Dakota next week, I'm not going. I'm not going to waste my time after that finish."

Hendley's playing partner Stu Anderson wasn't feeling much better. He was also right in the mix, even par for the tournament and one off the lead, on the 16th tee box, before finishing bogey, bogey, bogey (74-73-147), tied with Hendley for third.

"Brutal group," sighed Anderson. "I think we both got into each other's heads, watching each other unfold."

WATCH AND WAIT

All the while, Buttar and Couch, Glendale pals who've played together since their junior days, were safely in the clubhouse watching the leaders back up.

"Interesting," said Couch.

"You don't expect anything like that. We were sitting up there watching (Hendley and Anderson on 18) and it's like, I guess we're going back out there, buddy."

Since Buttar is a pro and Couch is an amateur, the prize money was already decided before the playoff (Buttar was getting $3,200 as top pro, and Couch was getting a $1,000 merchandise voucher as low amateur, no matter what). All that was left to decide was who's name went on the trophy.

"Jeff and I are buddies so it was nice and loose," said Buttar, who parred the third playoff hole, 18, to win a friendly slice of revenge.

"He (Couch) hammered me in the match play championship at Glendale."


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