Word spread around Payson Golf Club late Wednesday morning.
“Brett shot 31 on the front nine,” one Payson Men’s Golf Association member told another.
“Wow,” came the response.
He smiled and shook his head.
But a 5-under-par effort for nine holes shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore.
Still, it’s hard for some PMGA members to comprehend how he can consistently shoot so low.
No, 31 isn’t unusual on the front nine for Brett Howard. He also carded 31 on the first nine holes a week earlier in the opening round of the 36-hole PMGA Club Championship on July 21.
He closed that opening round with a 33 on the back nine. His first-round 64 gave him a seven-stroke lead heading into the final round of the tournament. He ended the final round with 35 on the back nine for a 66. His 36-hole score of 130 left him 20 strokes ahead of Ernst for the A Flight title. Steve Thompson (160) finished third.
It’s his fifth consecutive Club Championship.
His front nine performance on the final day included a pair of eagles. The first came when he shot 2 on the par-4 #6 hole and the other when he shot 3 on the par-5 #9.
The two eagles, a pair of birdies on #1 and #3 and a bogey on #4 left him 5-under par for the round at the turn.
On #6, he hit a 3 wood on the 290-yard (check) hole to about 18 feet under the hole and made the “best putt I made all day and all month, probably,” he said.
On #9, Howard had a good drive to get within 175 yards and hit a 9-iron to within about 10 feet and sank the putt.
He’s had better front nines at PGC, carding an 8-under par 28 in a past tournament. He said 31 is about average for him on the front nine at PGC.
“I didn’t play all that well today, I just hit a few amazing shots,” Howard said. “Two good holes really is all I played on the front nine (but) eagles go a long way towards shooting a 31.”
His back nine featured birdies on #11 and #16. He had a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 #13,
“On the back nine I just continued to play a little below average,” he said. “I wasn’t swinging real well but I hit a few good shots, two birdies and a double-bogey, so even-par.”
Howard keeps busy playing in many tournaments in the Valley throughout the year but does also play in some PMGA tournaments such as the Club Championship, one of the few PMGA tournaments that goes by gross rather than net scoring. So, no handicaps, just the best score wins.
And Howard has been the best golfer in the PMGA for five consecutive years.
He fell one stroke shy of matching his best score in the Club Championship. He shot 67-62—129 in 2018.
Howard carded 73-64—137 to win his first Club Championship in 2017. Following his 129 in 2018, he shot 70-80—150 in 2019 and 68-68—136 a year ago.
A fiduciary with his own company, Howard doesn’t have the time to spend on the links he’d like to have. But he plays as much as possible with a job, a wife and two young sons.
At 33 still the youngest member of the PMGA, Howard puts in the time on the course to keep improving.
“I don’t take winning the Club Championship for granted,” he said. “I grind on my golf game year-round. In amateur golf, a lot of us work full-time and we can only golf so much, so it’s kind of a balancing act. I’m always working on my weaknesses.”
“I appreciate the men’s league and I like everyone out here. I work on my game, I try and get better every year. I’m out here practicing five, sometimes seven days a week because I really enjoy the competition of golf.”
He plays in all the state-level amateur tournaments in Arizona and returns to one of the Arizona Golf Association (AGA) majors in the State Amateur Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale beginning Aug. 9-14.
Thornell, Yeomans battle
Russ Thornell and Chip Yeomans battled for the B Flight title. Both shot 161, with Thornell prevailing on a scorecard playoff. Al Chittenden finished third with 167.
McKee edges Parkinson
Mike McKee (165) won the C Flight by two strokes over runner-up Bob Parkinson (167). Mike Valentiner (171) finished third.
Spatz wins D Flight
In the D Flight, George Spatz won with 182, followed by Dan Edwards (188) and Randy Wood (204).
Closest-to-the-pin winners included: Dan Edwards (#2, 5 feet 9 inches), Gary Vaplon (#8, 10-1), Danny Harder (#14, 11-4) and Al Chittenden (#17, 4-9).
Armenta’s long puttAlex Armenta sank an 18-foot putt on #18 to claim the longest putt prize.