As a former PGA Tour and Web.com Tour player, Andrew Svoboda knows that even the most elite golfers rarely make 33-foot putts, let alone make them when they absolutely must. So he was as amazed as anyone when his long attempt rolled in on the 18th hole Thursday.
Thrilled, yes, but amazed just the same. He made the perfect stroke when he could afford nothing less and forced a playoff with Nick Beddow at the Long Island Open at 7 under par. On top of that, he sank a 72-foot eagle putt on the first of a three-hole playoff and took the commanding lead that gave him a second consecutive Long Island title.
One-hundred and five feet of putts (measurements courtesy of the Metropolitan Golf Association) in two holes at Hempstead Golf and Country Club made for a lively start to his defense of an unprecedented local triple crown. Svoboda, a former St. John’s star and now a teaching pro at Engineers Country Club, is one-third of the way toward defending his unprecedented 2018 sweep of the Long Island, New York State and Met Opens.
He had all but lost his grip on the Long Island trophy, as Beddow, assistant pro at Nassau Country Club, nearly made a birdie putt on the par-4 18th, from almost exactly the same spot.
“It was a good match. Nick’s a good friend of mine,” Svoboda said of the final round that was stroke play but felt like match play, as they went back and forth. “I thought he had me.”
But that outlook changed instantly and dramatically on the final green of regulation in the three-day tournament. Svoboda made an emphatic fist-pump when the ball disappeared into the hole. “That was pretty incredible. That was one of the best clutch putts I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “I saw his putt, which helped. I saw his break and I saw it was pretty straight. It came off the face perfect, and I could see it tracking.”
Beddow, who plays a lot with Svoboda during winters in Florida, said, “It was just unfortunate to end up a couple of inches away, to give him a free run at it. What can you say? He’s a great player. He’s a big-time player and he played great.”
Both players thought the turning point was Svoboda’s aggressive birdie on the short par-4 16th, when he took the advice of his caddie Richie DePaul to hit driver. He hit it close to the green, pitched within inches and had a tap-in birdie that cut the deficit to one.
As for the eagle from the fringe on the par-4 first in extra holes, Svoboda said, “That was just a bomb. I don’t know how it went in.”
It’s the sort of effort that makes him consider, at 39, giving the tour another try. He said, “If I can make putts like that…”