Oppenheim: 'The golf gods owed me'

By Hector Longo
Published on

Rob Oppenheim was already in his car heading home to Orlando, checking for updates and the inevitable bad news after playing in the Tour playoffs.

Oppenheim was on the "bubble" again, just as he was in August, having missed gaining his PGA Tour card by one spot on the money list. The top 25 money winners on the Tour money list make the PGA Tour for 2016 and Oppenheim finished 26th.

The 35-year-old got a second chance, with 25 more PGA Tour spots awarded following a four-tournament playoff system, and this was the last tournament, the Tour Championship in Ponte Verde, Fla.

When Oppenheim, who has been chasing this dream for a dozen years, hopped in his car Sunday, leaving Ponte Verde for home, he was 26th on the list.

His only glimmer of hope was a player named Lucas Glover, who had won the U.S. Open in 2009, bogeyed the 18th hole.

Oppenheim got updates on his iPhone.

"Former U.S. Open champ (Glover) ... dead center of the 18th fairway, with no pressure on because he was already" assured of his PGA Tour card), said Oppenheim. "I figured I was done ... again."

Instead, Glover missed the green with his second shot and had a 20-foot putt for par. Glover was short on the putt and made a bogey.

The ripple effect slid Oppenheim up to a tie for 12th, raising his four-week playoff earnings just enough to creep into the 25th and final spot.

"The golf gods owed me," he said later.

After a crushing ending to the regular season back in late August, the dream of a PGA Tour card in 2016 was now reality.

"I woke up (Monday) morning thinking to myself, did all this really happen?" said Andover native Oppenheim from his Orlando, Florida, home. "It was just like waking up after all that happened last month in Portland, only on the total opposite end of the scale."

Forever, at least in our region, Glover and Oppenheim will be linked.

"He's about my age, and we've played some amateur stuff together, but I don't really know him," said Oppenheim. "I'll be sure to introduce myself on Tour to him, now."

Under pressure

"The thing I'm most proud of is the way I played under the pressure, down the stretch," said Oppenheim. "But even with that, sometimes, it's just not your day."

Take Oppenheim's approach on the 15th hole. The shot rattled the cup, like a basketball slam dunk, but instead of landing softly, it caromed out and rolled nearly 25 feet away.

"Usually, if you're putting up good scores and winning, those have to go in, you've got to have some luck, too," he said.

Instead of an eagle or tap-in birdie, Oppenheim two-putted for par.

He parred in the rest of the way, ending the round with a 30-foot birdie try on 18, that skirted the rim and spun away by about 18 inches.

"I hit a good putt, and it looked good for a long time," said Oppenheim. "I wasn't going to leave it short."

Finishing with a 67, his second straight 3-under par round, Oppenheim tried to stay and watch, but he couldn't.

"It was tough, hanging around, watching, hoping, and awaiting what I thought was the inevitable," he said.

That is another gruesomely painful near-miss.

Oppenheim and his wife, Lacey, decided to get out of town, and head back home from Ponte Vedra to Orlando. They took separate cars, and Oppenheim admits that he checked in with the scores on his phone as they drove.

About a half-hour into things, just before getting on Interstate 95, they stopped for gas.

"I said to Lacey, 'I might still have a chance here,'" said Rob. "She told me she was done, no more. She had had enough."

Then Glover missed the putt and their phones started to explode.

"What a sight, the two of us in a gas station, hugging and celebrating," he said.

Two-year-old daughter Zoey got caught up in the excitement, exclaiming "Daddy did it!"

The Oppenheims headed back to the course, and Rob was presented his card at a special ceremony shown live on the Golf Channel. It was the same sort of ceremony he was forced to hang around for three extra days in Oregon back in August -- that he missed being a part of by about $1,000 in earnings.

"My family is very important to me and the fact my wife and daughter were there made it even more special," said Oppenheim.

Back to work

With all he's been through physically and emotionally over the final weeks of the regular season and then the playoffs, Oppenheim could use a nice relaxing vacation.

But on Sunday, he was up early and headed to the first of two days of PGA Tour orientation.

The Tour waits for nobody, especially for the 49th and last qualifier off the Tour.

"I'm starting from the bottom," Oppenheim said. "You know, I talked to some of the guys, and there are six events left to try and get into before the year is out. One is in Malaysia, and I won't be there. But I'm told I should be able to get into three, maybe four of the others. If not, there will be Monday qualifying.

"The key is, any events I get into ... I have to play well."

Life as a real PGA Tour member for Oppenheim opens in wine country in Napa, California, for the Open, which begins Oct. 15.

For every winner ...

Rob Oppenheim's good fortune did not come without a price on Sunday.

No, it wasn't Lucas Glover, who suffered with that final bogey. He had secured his Tour spot already.

It was Eric Axley of Tennessee, who fell just about $101 short in playoff earnings behind Andover's Oppenheim.

Axley's name might ring a bell to PGA Tour fans. A year ago, he qualified through the Finals, finishing in the 25th and final spot by a total of $38. 

This article was written by Hector Longo from The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.