CHEYENNE – Josh Radcliff didn’t envision his first win as a professional golfer coming the way it did, but he isn’t about to return the check.
The Coppell, Texas, resident held the lead at the 63rd Tyrrell Wyoming State Open after 36 holes at 12-under-par 128, and was named champion when the tournament was called due to lightning and heavy rain that hung over Cheyenne during Sunday afternoon’s final round.
“I’m super excited and so grateful for the opportunity,” Radcliff said. “Nobody ever wants to win with the tournament being cut short, but we all knew there were storms that were supposed to come in and that this was a possibility.”
On Sunday, the final group was hitting its second shots on Hole No. 3 at Airport Golf Course when an airhorn was sounded to postpone play because of lightning in the area. That delay lasted nearly 90 minutes before the players were sent back to the course.
Radcliff birdied the third hole and his group was preparing to tee off Hole No. 4 when the airhorn was blown again because radar showed the previous storm cell backing up to hit the Capital City a second time.
Radcliff collected $10,000 for his efforts during his first trip to the Wyoming Open.
“When you’re at this stage and playing mini-tour golf, you’ll have buddies play tournaments all over the place,” Radcliff said. “They’ll tell you, ‘This tournament is really good,’ or, ‘This one isn’t any good, don’t go there.’ I had a buddy tell me about the Laramie Open, which was last week, and the Wyoming Open.
“They both fit into my schedule. There also was the Korn Ferry Monday qualifier this week, so that three-event stretch in a two-week period fit really well into the schedule.”
Radcliff and his former University of Texas-Arlington teammates Aaron Guanlao and Jake Greenspoon started formulating a strategy for attacking the Airport Golf Course during a practice round Wednesday. They solidified it during Thursday’s pro-am and Radcliff was able to execute it during his two rounds of competition.
“When you play college golf, you get one practice round to learn the golf course,” he said. “So you get used to picking up on things pretty quickly. We were able to make a plan and get a good feel for how we wanted to play the course.
“I hit it really well off the tee. There are four drivable holes on the front nine, and two reachable par-5s on the back. … To play the reachable holes aggressively was my goal, and I did that.”
Preston Alder, Landon Michelson and Tyler Torano were all 11-under heading into the final round, and collected $4,291 each. Guanlao and 2017 Wyoming Open champ David Oraee split fifth place, and earned $3,062 apiece.
Defending champion John Murdock IV tied for 12th and made $1,458.
Cheyenne East graduate Blake Danni and Sheridan’s Kirby Coe-Kirkham split the amateur title after finishing with a three-round total of 1-under 209.
Danni started the final round with a one-shot lead.
“I was hitting it pretty solid, but I had a couple bad swings on our first nine,” said Danni, who will play for the University of Northern Colorado starting this fall. “I knew it was going to be a dogfight, and it was. I’m still happy with how I played.”
The final group of amateurs started its day on the back nine, and Coe-Kirkham had pulled ahead by the turn despite carding a double-bogey on Hole No. 18 after hitting his tee shot out of bounds.
“I was trying to start it left and cut it back into the fairway, but it just started really right and sliced even more,” said Coe-Kirkham, who will be a sophomore at the University of Wyoming this fall. “We all have bad swings, but that was a really bad one.”
Danni posted three birdies and a bogey on the group’s second nine, while Coe-Kirkham had three birdies and two bogeys.
“(Danni) had it really rolling when we made the turn and put some pressure on me,” said Coe-Kirkham, who was playing in his third Wyoming Open. “It was a battle and a lot of fun.”