Gary Hesters Grabs First USPMGA Masters Tournament
16 Oct 2023 at 13:27 | Published by: PatPenguin | Views: 5235 | News search
Gary Hester on the final hole of the USPMGA Masters (Photo by The Putting Penguin)
North Myrtle Beach, SC - After years of great finishes and near misses, Gary Hester, a favorite among the US and international miniature golf communities, finally grabbed the USPMGA Master's title on October 7, 2023. Some would say it was destiny this year after Hester broke through with a major win in the inaugural World Putting League event in February at the Hawaiian Rumble, the same course where five of twelve Master's rounds would be played including the final two. » Final Results
Just under seventy total competitors between professionals and amateurs played in this year's Master's. The format of the tournament sees competitors play an initial nine rounds of round-robin, with three rounds on each of the three tournament courses (Hawaiian Rumble, Aloha North (Pineapple Course) and Aloha South (Island Course) during the tournament's opening day and a half. The entire field then comes together on Friday afternoon for the tenth round on the Aloha South course and the tournament wraps up with the previously mentioned two rounds on Hawaiian Rumble on Saturday.
With the field split over the initial nine rounds it is sometimes difficult to see who is truly leading until those wrap up but it was clearly Gary would be in the hunt after posting an 80 for his first three rounds on the Aloha South course, clearing him by five strokes from the best players in his rotation. After the full rotation completed, Hester was up by six strokes over two-time defending champion Olivia Prokopova, whose husband Wade Sahmel sat just one stroke behind her. Following them were three previous Masters winners in Joey Graybeal, Greg Newport and Rainey Statum, so the pressure was on.
Hester would maintain a decent lead after round 10, with Sahmel moving into second but only closing the gap to five strokes. It was then Graybeal who would have the chasing baton at five strokes after the completion of the eleventh round. This would set up the biggest drama of the final round with Hester and Graybeal paired together. Graybeal chipped away at Hester's lead but it came to a head on the 11th hole where Graybeal dropped a signature ace on a difficult, long, wrap-around putt and Hester took an uncharacteristic three after a wayward tee shot. This pulled Graybeal within two strokes but the crowd knew that if it was close coming through 14 that Hester was lights-out in the final holes (which included holes 1 through 4 as the final rounds start on hole 5 for viewing purposes). This proved to be the case as Hester aced 15 through 17 and then kept the lead through the emotional final hole. You can also find some livestreaming of the final two rounds here courtesy of the Puttcast podcast.
Graybeal would finish comfortably in second place with Newport and Prokopova tied for third give strokes behind him. Sahmel rounded out the top five, narrowly edging out Nate Nichols. The Puttcast also got an interview with Hester directly after his win on their Instagram page.
In the amateur category, Josh Carroll squeezed out a one stroke win over Chase Furguson with Vanette Block earning third. Statum would win the seniors category, while Hester took super seniors and Prokopova came out on top in the women's. Prokpova would also team up with Graybeal to take the teams competition over Hester and Rick Baird.
» USPMGA website