Whisman beginning an exciting year | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whisman beginning an exciting year

Steve Yingling

At the rate Travis “Whiz Kid” Whisman is going, he’ll have enough golf stories to fill a public library someday.

“That’s part of the fun, guys,” the 16-year-old told his friends after surviving a five-hole playoff to earn the final sectional berth at local U.S. Open qualifying Wednesday at the Golf Club of Genoa Lakes.

Whisman, a Galena High sophomore, rolled in a three-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole to oust Joe Tamburino of Dayton. Tamburino barely missed a 10-foot downhill birdie putt that would have extended the playoff.

“I don’t mind playoffs too much, but I’d have much rather settled it in regulation,” said Whisman, who fired a 7-under-par 64 to take medalist honors in local qualifying last year at Lightning W.

“I’m pretty tired and have so much homework.”

Whisman agonizingly sat in the clubhouse for an hour, waiting to see if his even-par 72 was worthy of one of four qualifying spots. But Tom Dawson of Reno and Mark Gilmartin of Reno overtook Whisman as they shot rounds of 69 and 71, respectively. Then three additional players came in at 72, setting up a four-man playoff for the final two sectional berths.

“I didn’t think 72 was going to hold up. I was hoping for anything under par, but I’m not too disappointed I shot 72,” Whisman said. “Nothing really happened during my round. I missed four greens and I only got up and down once. I also hurt myself on the par 5s. I had less than 100 hundred years into all of them and didn’t birdie one.”

Whisman struggled to a 1-over 37 on the front nine, but wasted no time scoring on the back nine. He drained a 20-footer for birdie on the par-4 10th and followed that with a four-foot birdie on the 11th. After dropping back to even par with a bogey on the par-3 14th, Whisman coaxed in an eight-footer for birdie on the 15th.

His chipping let him down on the 18th hole as he failed to get up and down from just off the green.

“I thought 71 had a really good shot at making it. I didn’t think 72 was good enough,” Whisman said.

Joining Whisman in the playoff were Tamburino, Truckee’s Sean Farren and Reno’s Eddie Travis.

It appeared Travis would be the first to bow out, but he made a clutch 12-foot par-saving putt on the first playoff hole.

Given new hope, Travis took advantage on the 544-yard, par-5 second hole. His 30-yard chip shot landed two feet from the hole, guaranteeing him a birdie.

Meanwhile, Farren’s hopes disappeared when his second shot splashed into the pond guarding the left side of the fairway. He wound up bogeying the hole. Whisman could have cinched the final qualifying spot, but his 5-foot birdie putt slid by the left edge of the cup.

“I read it straight, and I pulled it a little bit,” Whisman explained.

Only minutes earlier, Tamburino’s 8-foot birdie putt grazed the right edge of the cup.

Tamburino took charge on the third playoff hole, pounding his tee shot on the 325-yard, par-4 hole within 30 yards of the pin. Conversely, Whisman’s tee shot found the 10-inch-high rough pin high left of the green.

With a fluffy lie, a bunker just in front of him and little green to work with, Whisman wowed 25 spectators by wedging the shot 15 feet above the cup.

“I’ve had a lot of shots like that. I just wanted to make sure I got it on the green,” said Whisman, who missed the subsequent birdie attempt.

But Tamburino missed a makable 8-foot downhill birdie putt, extending the playoff.

Tamburino was in the driver’s seat again on the fourth extra hole, despite having to deal with a 35 mph head wind on the 461-yarder. His approach came to rest 10 feet above the hole. He missed his birdie try, but par seemed like a winner. Whisman’s approach from 180 yards drifted left, leaving him a tough pitch over a knoll. But the teen-ager was game, as he calmly pitched to within five feet and sank the pressure-packed downhill par putt.

As darkness approached and the winds whipped some fans into the clubhouse, Whisman put some pressure on Tamburino by nearly driving the third green. Tamburino, on the other hand, appeared to lose his drive into the water, but an all-out search turned up his ball in the rough just over the green, only a few yards from the Carson River. He chipped to within 10 feet of the hole, but Whisman was even better as he nearly holed his chip, which slid three feet past the hole.

Tamburino’s birdie putt missed to the left, while the “Whiz Kid” hit his putt in the center of the cup.

“This ranks right up there with when I won a three-way playoff in junior worlds as a 14-year-old,” said Whisman after receiving congratulations from some of his friends who stuck around for his late-afternoon heroics.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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