Bingaman lands long-coveted Colorado West Amateur title
When his 12-foot putt for birdie lipped out on No. 14, Brandon Bingaman added a colorful word to his “You’ve got to be kidding me” response.
After bogeying Holes 9 and 12 at Bookcliff Country Club and carding just one birdie in a span of 11 holes after birdieing two of his first three holes, Bingaman let the frustration surface for a few seconds Sunday afternoon. He didn’t know how safe his lead was. He thought Scott Sullivan had closed within three strokes of him, although Sullivan actually was five back. And after two frustrating runner-up finishes at the Home Loan Colorado West Amateur golf tournament, he didn’t want to settle for second again.
So, he authored another response, a champion’s response.
Bingaman proceeded to birdie Nos. 15, 16 and 17 and closed out the tournament with a 4-under-par 67 in the third and final round. Entering the day with a four-stroke lead, that ensured no one in his foursome could make a late charge past him. Nor could anyone in the group ahead of him shoot a low enough score to catch him, as Sean Robbins did a year ago to surge past him for the title.
Bingaman made a championship statement, leading a tournament from start to finish for the first time as he won by six strokes with a 204. The second-best score came from first-flight champion Chis Berg, who also closed with a 67 and finished with 210 strokes.
“I finally did it,” Bingaman said of winning the Colorado West Amateur.
He made a final-round charge to force a playoff two years ago but finished second. And last year he led by six strokes entering the final round, but Robbins, his teammate at Colorado Mesa University the past two seasons, shot a final-day 66 to beat him by a stroke.
Bingaman was determined not to let this one get away, and Robbins said that was on display down the stretch.
“When he gets a little fire under his belly, that’s when I’ve seen him at his best,” said Robbins, who entered the day in second place, four strokes back, and finished third in the championship flight and fourth overall at 215.
While he would have preferred to play better Sunday — five bogeys wrecked his back nine — Robbins said he was thrilled for Bingaman, who became his former teammate with Bingaman’s graduation last month.
“It’s awesome,” Robbins said. “He was the runner-up the last two years. Nobody deserves it more than him. ... He’s my brother, he’s my friend, he’s awesome, I love him to death.”
Bingaman’s fantastic finish was driven by the likes of Robbins, Sullivan and Joey Saad, who joined him in the lead foursome Sunday. Knowing each was capable of a late charge meant he had to keep his focus, or refocus after settling for that disappointing par on No. 14.
“I told myself to calm down, keep hitting good shots,” Bingaman said. “I tried to stay true to my game plan. Keep hitting greens and hopefully make some of those longer putts, and I got a few of those to drop.”
So, Bingaman’s emotional flare-up was brief, and then it was gone for good, squelched by three birdies.
On No. 15, a 143-yard par-3, he dropped his tee shot eight feet from the pin and sank his putt.
On No. 16, a 415-yard par-4, he placed his approach about 15 feet from the pin, then sank the putt.
And on No. 17, a 227-yard par-3, his tee shot landed several inches into the rough just off the green, and his chip ran at the cup, curled around it and dropped. That led to a different flash of emotion, a high-five exchange with Robbins.
“That was a little cherry on top,” Bingaman said. “That was a bonus.”
And after he three-putted but still parred No. 18, Bingaman knew he was the champion as he accepted handshakes and hugs from his playing partners. It was nice to be congratulated instead of consoled. It was nice to know he could finish what he started.
“I need to learn how to win tournaments,” Bingaman said, adding he’s been the leader going into the final day “quite a few times. ... So, it was a really big step for me, a good boost for my confidence.”
Berg takes next step
Chris Berg knows a little about the frustration Bingaman has experienced at the Colorado West Amateur. He lost a playoff for the first-flight championship last year.
Berg’s 67 on Sunday made him uncatchable this year, as Riley Willis, who had pulled within two strokes after two rounds, fired a final-round 73. Willis, who will be a senior at Montrose High School this fall, finished eight strokes back but hung on for second place at 218.
“I finally made some putts today,” Berg said. “That was the difference. I wasn’t making putts the last couple days. I was making all of my 15-footers today.”
He was pretty steady for three days, though, shooting rounds of 70, 73 and 67.
“I only had five or six bogeys this week and no double bogeys,” he said.
Berg also collected a winner’s check for $750, to which he said, “I finally get some pro-shop money, get a little return on the investment.”
Sullivan tops the seniors
Sullivan finished second in the championship flight and third overall with his score of 212, but he also was a winner Sunday. Sullivan was the tourney’s senior champion.
An assistant coach for the Colorado Mesa men’s golf team, Sullivan downplayed his performance.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I played well.
“It’s just fun to go out there and compete with the kids. Most of them are one-third my age.”
The Colorado West Amateur also served as a warmup for a greater goal, as the 55-year-old Sullivan said he will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open in a couple of weeks.
In the other flights of the 52nd annual Colorado West Amateur:
■ Dane Hamilton won the second flight with a 229, three strokes better than Peter Foye and Troy Whiting.
■ James Stelljes won the third flight with a 241, six strokes ahead of runner-up Stan Cole.
■ Al Zimmerebner claimed the title in the fourth flight with a 255, followed by Danny Adams at 261.
■ Dutch Denbleyker ran off with the fifth-flight championship, shooting 247, 16 better than runner-up Mark Sandstedt.