Van Pelt beats Mallinger on 2nd second hole of sudden death playoff at US Bank Championship

By Colin Fly, AP
Monday, July 20, 2009

Van Pelt tops Mallinger in sudden death at US Bank

MILWAUKEE — Bo Van Pelt finally won his first PGA Tour event. He may never get a chance to defend it.

Van Pelt beat John Mallinger on the second playoff hole to win the U.S. Bank Championship on Sunday after the tournament went to sudden death for the first time since 2001.

But even with the dramatic finish, the tournament may not return after U.S. Bank previously announced it would not renew its sponsorship after a six-year run. Organizers say a new title sponsor must be found for the tournament to return for a 43rd year.

“The PGA Tour was built on tournaments like Milwaukee,” Van Pelt said. “It was built on tournaments that are … in the same town year after year, where you go in and you see the old pictures of Lee Trevino and all of these people come, and that’s what we need to keep.”

The tournament has a storied history — Tiger Woods made his pro debut here in 1996 and a host of legends like Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Trevino and Tom Watson all finished second but never won the event.

Van Pelt’s opinion aside, most players in recent years chose to skip the event that’s the shortest on tour at 6,759 yards. Since 2007, it’s been opposite the British Open and rarely draws any of the top players.

Jerry Kelly, who finished third, is one of the pros that skipped the British in a show of support. Kelly has been working with Steve Stricker to try and save the event, but he’s been short on details of how he plans to lure a sponsor.

“I think we will be able to corral somebody. I don’t think that’s going to be as much of an issue,” Kelly said.

It’s unclear whether Kelly’s plans include keeping the event at Brown Deer Park Golf Course or moving it to a longer course somewhere in the area. Wisconsin has several elite courses like Whistling Straits in nearby Haven, Wis., which will host the PGA Championship next year.

Kelly said he hoped to reveal more specific details soon.

“I’d love to say in two weeks. The tour would probably say two months,” Kelly said. “I don’t know. It’s tough. You know, there are some big people involved and I can’t push on them. I’ve just got to state our case and say, ‘This is what we’ve got, let’s get it done.’”

If it is the last tournament, at least Van Pelt and Mallinger put on a good show.

On the second playoff hole at No. 18, the 29-year-old Mallinger rolled his second shot in a greenside bunker. Mallinger got out, but left himself a 28-footer for birdie that he pushed right of the hole and settled for par.

That would be plenty for Van Pelt, who had a chance on the first hole — also No. 18 — to end it, but looked shaky and missed a 13-foot eagle putt. He settled for a tap-in birdie to put the pressure on Mallinger, who made a 5-footer setting up the final scramble.

“I just think nerves got to me a little bit,” Van Pelt said. “Just didn’t make a very good stroke. I was glad I got to redeem myself.”

Did he ever.

After 10 years toiling away without a victory, Van Pelt earned his first title in 229 starts. He never led until the final day and needed a bogey-free round of 64 to even put himself in position for a playoff.

Mallinger needed a birdie, too, to force a playoff but couldn’t close what would’ve been his first win as well.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of chances for me. I think I’m going to be there a lot. I consider myself a Top 50 player in the world. That’s my goal and that’s where I want to be,” said Mallinger, who finished second for the first time after six third-place finishes.

Instead, Van Pelt got the $720,000 check and a big crystal trophy he’ll keep for himself knowing he finally won on tour after feeling he was close so many times before in his career.

“My first win on Nationwide Tour, I gave to my dad. He had been with me from the start,” Van Pelt said. “You know, we don’t have a lot of crystal in the house, but I have a feeling at some point there’s going to be some Miller Lite or Coors Light or Budweiser drank out of that.”

And it may be the last trophy after 42 years in Milwaukee.

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