PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The one-armed, backward chip that Josh Rackley holed out from 50 feet for eagle at the 13th hole in the second round was always going to be memorable.
It also proved to be the game-winner for Rackley and partner Lonnie Nielsen when the final round of the PGA Senior-Junior Championship was washed out Friday on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club.
As the 54-hole leaders, Nielsen and Rackley were declared winners of the PGA Winter Championship event. By one shot.
A magical, crazy, unbelievable shot.
“I saw Sergio Garcia hit a shot like that from the trees, but I had never practiced it,” said Rackley, a PGA Assistant Pro from Gulph Mills Golf Club in Pennsylvania. “Lonnie was already in close for a birdie, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The ball was just out of the bunker, which was so deep, I couldn’t get footing, so I had to turn around and hit it.
“I clipped it perfectly. It checked up and rolled right into the hole. It was as lucky as making a hole-in-one. I’ve made three hole-in-ones and I had the same reaction – pure shock. That shot ended up paying off.”
Nielsen, a two-time winner on the Champions Tour, and Rackley had never played golf together until Monday’s practice round. They shot rounds of 67, 61 and 65 to finish 23-under 193. They hit just two shots Friday before play was called shortly after noon.
“I’m proud of the way we played this week,” Nielsen said. “We zigged and zagged pretty good. We made only one bogey. We had a pretty good idea what was happening (with Friday’s weather). It would have been a bummer to be one shot back and not be able to play.”
That’s what happened to the teams of Denny Dolci-Kevin Shields and Kirk Hanefield-Troy Pare. They settled for a second-place tie at 22-under.
“We wanted to play, but we didn’t want to play in this, that’s for sure,” Dolci said. “But second place is a good way to start 2016. We’re not complaining.”
When told of Rackley’s incredible shot, Dolci laughed. “Isn’t that golf?” he said. “That’s what keeps us coming back.”
Three teams tied for fourth place at 21-under: Bruce Zabriski-Shaun Powers, Jeff-Seavey-Shawn Warren and Bob Sowards-Rick Schuller.
Play was stopped twice Friday as storms swept through the Treasure Coast. Mark Tschetschot, director of PGA Member Championships for the PGA of America, said the decision to shorten the tournament was the logical one.
“We knew the forecast didn’t look good,” Tschetschot said. “Then we got 1.3 inches of rain during the two delays. The course just became unplayable – the bunkers were washed out and flooded and there was standing water everywhere. We were going to run out of daylight.”
Nielsen and Rackley would have preferred to win in 72 holes, of course, but they weren’t bothered by it. A win is a win.
Neither will be looking for a new partner next year.
“I told him he’s stuck with me again,” Nielsen said.
No back-handed compliment there.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by Premier Golf and Golf Advisor.