ST. FRANCISVILLE — B.J. Staten had 250 yards to the center of the 18th green on the second playoff hole Saturday of the Merrill Lynch Open at The Bluffs. He swung smoothly, knocking the ball to within 8 inches. The 37-year-old from Cotton Heights, Utah, sank the eagle putt to win a sudden-death playoff, besting a trio of Texans and the $20,000 first-place check.
Staten, who played collegiately at the University of Houston, outdueled Drew Evans, Lance Lopez and Mark Walker for his first Adams Pro Tour win. The foursome made the playoff after tying at 8-under 280 after 72 holes of regulation play.
The four parred the 18th on the first playoff hole and each hit their drives to the middle of the fairway to begin the second. Walker hit short of the green and Lopez was on the green, but far to the right. Evans hit his second shot to within about 18 feet.
“I heard the crowd when Drew hit his shot, so I knew he was probably pretty close on the green, so I took a good swing and hit one of my better ones,” Staten said. After Lopez and Evans missed their eagle attempts and Walker made birdie, Staten calmly sank the ‘gimme’ for his second professional tournament win.
Staten said he competed in the Monday qualifying round of the Web.com Tour event in Newburgh, Indiana, but missed the getting in the field. He drove to Louisiana, arriving Tuesday afternoon in time to squeeze in a quick round around the 7,003-yard layout, soggy from Monday’s heavy rain.
“The greens were fantastic compared to when I got here Tuesday,” said Staten. “I can’t say enough about the condition of the golf course today. I’m glad I made it to play here this week.”
Evans, Walker and Lopez each earned $8,380. Brian Rowell of Broussard shot the day’s best round with a 67 to finish 7-under for fifth place and $5,770. Mike Arnaud of Covington was in a quartet at 6-under, earning $4,223. Third-round leader Anthony Broussard fell out of contention and dropped to a tie for 13th.
But the day belonged to Staton, who turned pro in 2000 and played on the PGA Tour full-time in 2006 and 2007 with two top-10 finishes. Since then, he’s been on the Web.com Tour. He’s made 99 total cuts on the two major tours and has career earnings of over $1.3 million. He also won the 2014 Utah Open in a playoff and has three second-place finishes, all playoff losses, on the Web.com Tour.
“I need one more cut to get to a hundred and I’ve been doing more Monday qualifiers this year,” said Staton, who plays left-handed but putts right-handed. “Now I’m going to take this check home to my wife and spend some time with my two boys.”