DAVIDSON – Andrew Svoboda’s golfing career changed with one tap-in on Sept. 8.
The 33-year-old survived a one-hole playoff against Will MacKenzie to win the Web.com Tour’s Chiquita Classic at River Run Country Club and improve his PGA Tour priority status.
It was the shortest putt Svoboda made all week: a one-inch putt for par after a downhill, 15-foot birdie putt that would’ve clinched his win sooner. Instead, he watched MacKenzie nearly hole what could have been a winning chip-in from the front of the gallery.
The wait was worth it for Svoboda. He finished the third round tied for the lead with John Peterson, but had little to say afterward. His focus stayed on the final round with good reason.
Svoboda found himself ahead by three shots with two holes to play. An 18th-hole eagle by MacKenzie – coupled with Svoboda’s bogey on the 17th – started the playoff drama.
Svoboda finished it.
“Just a huge win with a strong field,” said Svoboda, a New York native who had already earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 25th in the Web.com Tour’s regular-season money list.
The $180,000 winner’s share Svoboda earned wasn’t a bad payday, either.
Svoboda’s season leading up to River Run was up-and-down at best. He won the Web.com Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship Aug. 11, a tournament he didn’t even plan on entering.
Svoboda couldn’t find a good plane ticket home from Nevada, so he flew to the tournament, made the cut, and won. His other option: A 6 a.m. flight home that would’ve cost him $1,000.
Svoboda’s PGA Tour results were less than top flight: 13 missed cuts in 18 tries. A tie for 37th at the Wyndham Championship was his best finish.
“I was struggling this year,” Svoboda said. “I was looking on the PGA (website) links and it tells you your (ranking) number (to determine who qualifies). There were a bunch of tournaments where we were borderline (out). So we were flying in, praying we’d get into the event, but we might not. It’s tough to plan your schedule like that. It was definitely a tough road.”
Svoboda’s road next year will go through the PGA Tour.
He arrived at River Run with a stress-free attitude, knowing he had his Tour card locked up.
“We had nothing to lose,” Svoboda said. “There was some pressure because we wanted to get a good position for next year. Having been there last year I knew that, so it was important to play well.”
MacKenzie said he enjoyed his battle with Svoboda.
“Every shot’s so important on a golf course like (River Run),” he said. “The most important thing is trying to get your PGA Tour card.”
For Svoboda, winning brought a much better feeling than the frustration he felt for much of the season.
“To win this is just icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s just an incredible win for me.”