Steve Wheatcroft thought this was the end.
He had gone through poor seasons before but now, at age 36 with his wife ready to deliver their first child in August, thoughts of a post-golf career began seeping, bit by bit, into his mind.
Wheatcroft, a Trinity High School graduate, had missed eight cuts in the 15 events he participated in this season and had earnings of just $35,365.
“I was beyond panicky,” said Wheatcroft. “I was already moving on … thinking about other jobs. I thought I might be playing my last (competitive) golf.”
But four outstanding rounds, plus a playoff hole, over the weekend breathed new life into Wheatcroft’s professional career.
Wheatcroft shot rounds of 64, 66, 65 and 65 for a 24-under score, then defeated Steve Alker in a one-hole playoff to capture the Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club in Boise, Idaho.
The dramatic victory was worth $144,000 and propelled the former Washington resident from 89th to No. 11 on the Web.com’s money list with nearly $180,000, assuring him his PGA tour card for next season.
Wheatcroft’s total career earnings on the pro tours reached $1.1 million.
“I actually told my wife that I thought I was going to win this week,” said Wheatcroft. “I felt pretty good. I was coming off a good performance in Salt Lake City.”
Wheatcroft finished tied for 21st at the Utah Open, earning $6,500, after finishing 11 under par and 10 shots back of winner Andres Gonzales. The previous two tournaments, Wheatcroft failed to make the cut, ballooning to 5-over 77 in the second round of the United Leasing Championship in Newburgh, Ind., and a whopping 8-over 79 at the following week’s Nova Scotia Open.
“I was definitely in panic mode,” Wheatcroft said. “I needed to play good golf, and I finally did it at Boise.”
Wheatcroft and Alker each birdied the par-3 17th and made par on the par-4 18th to finish tied at 24 under. Replaying the 18th hole, Wheatcroft put his approach to within eight feet and Alker’s was about 30. Alker’s putt for birdie came up just short and Wheatcroft sank his for his first victory on tour since the 2011, when he won the Melwood Prince George’s County Open by a tour-record 12 strokes.
“I was in a playoff for the U.S. Open (qualifier) just to get in,” said Wheatcroft. “I’ve never been in one for a Web.com or a PGA event. I’ve been in a lot of playoffs on mini-tours. Some of the pressure for this playoff was off when I went out, because I knew I was going to be either first or second. It’s been a good tournament for me for many years.”
Wheatcroft finished second at Boise two years ago and has six top-3 finishes on the Web.com tour.
In 2010, Wheatcroft briefly led the U.S. Open before finishing tied for 63rd.
Wheatcroft will try to improve his standing on the Web.com’s money leaders list. The further up the list he goes, the better the chance he can enter PGA tour events. He will play in this week’s Midwest Classic in Overland Park, Kansas; take a week off and play in the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., (Aug. 7-10) and the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville (Aug. 14-17).
By then, Wheatcroft and his wife Sarah expect to celebrate their first child, a boy, into their Jacksonville, Fla., home.
“This has been the worse season of my career, not even close,” he said. “Then this happens out of the blue. It’s what makes golf so great. You win one tournament and it’s a good year.”