How Kris Blanks rallied from T38 to win 2014 Chitimacha
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Written by Preston Smith @WebDotComTour
In late March 2014, Kris Blanks had a morning tee time for the final round of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Beginning the day T38, seven shots off the lead, the Georgia native was just looking to string together some birdies and creep into the top-25. By day’s end, Blanks had carded a 62 to reach a playoff and sunk a birdie on the third playoff hole to win.
The week began not in Lafayette, Louisiana, but in San Antonio, Texas. Blanks had met up with his best friend (and caddie) in Houston and driven over to San Antonio for the PGA TOUR’s Valero Texas Open. Come to find out on arrival, Blanks wasn’t in the field yet. He was the third alternate. So he played a Tuesday practice round at TPC San Antonio, and by Tuesday evening was the second alternate.
After not competing for over six months and itching to play competitively coming off a shoulder injury, Blanks had a decision to make. He was dual-committed and in the field at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
“I told my caddie that if we don’t get in the field by the time we wake up tomorrow (Wednesday), we’re going to drive to Louisiana,” said Blanks. “He was worried about us not playing a practice round. I didn’t care. I needed to play in something and get the competitive juices going.”
Sure enough, he woke up and decided around noon to drive over to Lafayette, a six-hour drive. He got to the course before dusk, but the only thing he had time to do was to go to the putting green.
(Blanks ended as first alternate for the Valero Texas Open and would not have gained entry.)
His first round started rather uneventfully. Beginning on the back nine, he was a couple under at the turn until the par-5 seventh.
“I hadn’t played there in five years; I remember I was hitting last in my group at the seventh and the two guys that I was playing with hit hybrids off of the tee,” said Blanks. “I didn’t even notice. I hit driver because it was a par-5; that’s just what you do. Of course I had forgotten there was a pond right over the bunkers.”
Blanks made a triple bogey on the hole, an abrupt halt to his early success. He scratched out one more birdie to get back to an even-par 71 after the first round and rebounded with a 66 on Friday to make the cut. Another even-par 71 on Saturday led to a T38 position entering the final round.
“I was hitting the ball really well, hitting it really close. I just couldn’t make anything,” said Blanks. “I actually showed up with four putters in my bag. Each round, I used a different putter. By the final round, I was so frustrated with my putting that I just grabbed the one that I hadn’t used yet and decided to give it a shot.”
On Sunday, Blanks started birdie-birdie and then hit his best shot of the week at the par-3 third.
“I hit the most beautiful 4-iron anyone has ever hit,” said Blanks. “It was a really good par-3 and they had the pin all of the way back. I couldn’t have drawn up the shot any better in my head. It rolled 2 feet past the hole.”
“I missed it. I couldn’t believe I missed the putt. It was just the perfect example of how the week had been going.”
After settling for a par at the third, Blanks posted birdies at Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to reach 5-under at the turn. He added back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 and again at Nos. 16 and 17, finally allowing Blanks to think about a top-10 or even a top-five finish.
“The leaders hadn’t even shown up to the golf course yet when I was making my run,” said Blanks. “I distinctly remember that Nos. 2 and 17 ran right next to each other. The leaders were on No. 2 when I was on 17. I made a 25-footer on 17 to take a one-shot lead at the time.”
“I still thought I had no chance. Especially when I parred the last hole. I knew I had locked up a top-10 finish, but I thought there was no way that score was going to hold. I went to the Truck to see (Jeff) Goose (Thomas) and Tommie (Sheridan) and the operations guys, and went to grab a beer, and they wouldn’t let me. They said you can’t have a drink until you’re a few shots back off the lead.”
Blanks thought it would only be a matter of time until someone separated, but no one ever did.
“I sat on the Truck for hours; it was the longest I’ve ever been on the Truck without a drink,” said Blanks. “I had already checked out of my hotel, so I had nowhere to go. At least March Madness was on.”
After the long day, it ended up being Blanks and Brett Stegmaier in a playoff at 14-under.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be filmed, so I had worn tennis shoes that day because my feet were killing me,” said Blanks. “That was my first thought when I went to a playoff, everyone was going to see me in my tennis shoes.”
“We both parred the first playoff hole, and I got on the tee of the second playoff hole and my caddie leaned over to me and said, ‘You better not lose to this guy. He’s a Gator.’ I looked down at his bag and sure enough there was a big Florida Gator. I’m a huge Florida State fan. I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I lost.”
After another par at the second playoff hole, Blanks sunk an 8-foot birdie on the third extra hole for the unlikely win.
“After all of my champion duties were done, I finally got to drink that beer on the Truck,” said Blanks. “And I will never forget, I celebrated with dinner at Taco Bell after it was all over.”