Sowards edges Balin for PGA Match Play title in taut extra-hole duel

bob sowards
Mark Tschetschot/The PGA of America
Bob Sowards beat Danny Balin in the PGA Match Play a week after Balin had edged Sowards for the win in the PGA Stroke Play Championship.
Bob Denney
The PGA of America

Series: PGA Feature

Published: Monday, February 13, 2012 | 12:44 p.m.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, birdied the second extra hole on Saturday to win the 49th annual PGA Match Play Championship and get a measure of revenge from his opponent in the finals, Danny Balin of Rockville, Md.

In a tight, well-played match on The Dye Course at PGA Golf Club, neither player led by more than one hole. Sowards, teaching professional at New Albany Country Club in suburban Columbus, Ohio, was 6 under par for 20 holes. Balin, an assistant at Burning Tree in Greenwich, Conn., was 5 under.

The match ended when Sowards hit a 5-wood to within 18 inches at the par-3 16th hole, the second of the playoff, for a conceded birdie. Balin was short of the green off the tee and his chip rolled well past the hole.

“I hit the same club at 16 the first time but it went too far,” Sowards said. “In the playoff, I tried to get it up in the air more. It worked out perfectly.”

The PGA Match Play Championship was the sixth and final event of the 59th annual PGA Winter Championships, presented by United Rentals, Premier Golf, and Hospital for Special Surgery. The supporting sponsors were Jacobson, Golf Pride, and DryRainge.

In the semifinals earlier that day, Sowards beat Sam Kang of Rockaway, N.J., 2-up, coming from two holes down at the turn, and Balin never trailed in a 3 and 1 victory over Ryan Garrity of Jupiter. Garrity had never been behind in his first four matches this week.

Sowards earned $4,000 from the $25,625 purse, Balin $2,125. Kang and Garrity received $1,280 apiece.

Earlier this month in the PGA Stroke Play Championship on the adjacent Wanamaker Course, Sowards led for three days but shot 73 the last day for 279 as Balin won with a closing round of 67 for 276.

“He got me last week and I got him this week,” Sowards noted. “That’s the way golf goes sometimes.”

Sowards won the Match Play in 2005, the Stroke Play in 2005 and 2006, and was the PGA Professional of the Year in 2003, 2004 and 2005.