When Russ Marquart walked away from the Integrity Pro-Am each of the past two years, he could only shake his head and wonder what might have been.
After all, Marquart and the Central Bank/Central Trust golf team finished as runner-up in the tournament, whose grand prize has long been a berth into the FCA National Scramble. Two years ago, the Scramble was held at the famed Pinehurst (N.C.) club where Payne Stewart won a major and, a year ago, the host was Kiawah Island, S.C.
So, look who now needs flights to Kiawah Island this fall.
Central Bank/Central Trust, Spencer Fane LLP and Coltrane Asphalt all fired 54s on Saturday in the Integrity Pro-Am presented by The Roark Group, with Central Bank’s strong performance on the back nine providing the difference on a scorecard tiebreaker at LedgeStone Country Club.
“I can’t believe it,” Marquart said, and then joked, “I can’t afford anything now because I’ve got to fly my team by private jet (to South Carolina) is what I understand.”
The event, a fundraiser for the PGA Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, had a field of 26 teams.
Central Bank featured Marquart, Dr. Mark Walterskirchen, Brad Gebhard, Tyler Phillips and pro Bradley Long, earning a berth into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ National Scramble on Nov. 1-3 in South Carolina.
Spencer Fane featured Chris Lambert, Justin Ridgeway, Connor Onealy, Adlai Graves and pro James Nitties. Coltrane featured Shaun Coltrane, Rick Coltrane, Eric Bjork, Matt Shevechuk and pro Ron Streck.
For Central Bank, it was sweet victory, which came after back-to-back years with runner-up finishes – a year ago, Central Bank finished one stroke back of the winner; two years ago, it “lost” on a scorecard tiebreaker.
“It was a team scramble for sure,” Gebhard said. “We’ve been really close to winning it the last two years and today we started super-slow. We had two pars off the bat (on Nos. 4 and 5) and we were all looking at each other saying, ‘This is going to be one of those kinds of days.’ But then good things started to happen.
Said Phillips, “After the first two holes, we thought, ‘Well, I guess we’ll have fun the rest of the day.’ To come through birdie everything with one extra eagle was nice. We had a three-hole stretch where we made over 30-foot putts, including an eagle.”
Central Bank carded 26 on the back nine. That was one stroke better than the runner-up and two better than the third-place finisher.
“We just made the putts when we needed to make them,” Long said. “And then we missed only two putts we should have made.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Walterskirchen said simply.
The victories came on a day when Greg Horton, the CEO of Integrity Home Care Hospice, gave an inspiring message before play got under way.
Speaking to all golfers, Horton recalled how he and a pilot survived a plane crash in 2016 after their single-engine plane clipped a cell phone tower on approach en route to the downtown Springfield airport.
“I thought it was the final minute and a half of my life, and the FAA told us it should have been,” Horton said. “So, today is a bonus day. And remember, when you hit that great shot today, thank the Lord for your ability to hit that great shot. And, if you hit a bad shot, just remember you have a pro with you.’”
Horton’s message resonated with pro Jin Park, who later approached Horton and shared a similar story – of surviving a car crash. Park apparently broke his neck but survived thanks to a nurse who happened to be in traffic near the accident.
“He shared his testimony, and it was incredible,” Horton said.