Resorters golf: Zak Jones rides rollercoaster of emotions to a Men’s Champ title
Chip-in for birdie at 17 during the quarterfinals propels college golfer from Texas to three dramatic wins on his way to winning the Men's Championship Division at the Resorters.
ALEXANDRIA — Zak Jones watched as a 2-up lead on the back nine disappeared on Saturday during the Men’s Championship Division finals, and calmly brushed it aside to bring home the title over the final three holes.
Jones, a Texas native who plays at the University of Texas Arlington, had already overcome the most stressful round of his tournament during the quarterfinals a day earlier. He trailed Gunnar Broin by two with four to go a day earlier. Jones got birdie on 15 only to have Broin match it.
Both parred 16. Jones then chipped in for birdie on 17, went on to birdie 18 to force a playoff and then won it with par on the third extra playoff hole.
“It was crazy. It was just so fun,” Jones said. “I was long left on 17. I had to chip in and hope he missed. I chipped in from long left of the green, probably a 3% shot. We were talking about it (Friday) night and I was like, ‘What are the odds I make that again?’ They said three in 100. I said, ‘If that.’ It was just phenomenal. Then I hit it to eight feet (on 18) and we go to three extra holes. This week was just so fun.”
Jones said he has never felt nerves during a golf round like he felt down the stretch of that win over Broin. He had two more close matches on Saturday, but he said he felt like he ran out of nerves in the quarterfinals. Saturday was simply fun.
Jones got through a 1-up win over Alexandria’s Ryan Conn in the semifinals that morning. He birdied No. 18 to advance to the finals after Conn had taken holes 12 and 14 to tie the match.
Nick Jarrett, 33, from Rochester was waiting for Jones in the finals. Jones was 2-up through 11 holes after taking 10 and 11 with birdies.
Jarrett came right back. He birdied the par-three 13th and then went birdie, par on Nos. 14 and 15 to take his first lead since he won hole three on the front with a par.
“Coming down 16, I had such a good number downwind,” Jones said. “Let’s just put it to seven feet. He almost made his putt, which was crazy enough. It just felt so good to make it, and that was a huge momentum shift for me.”
Jones’ great approach shot on the par-four 16th set up a birdie win to even the match.
Both players had short par putts on the par-three 17th. Jarrett’s putt did not break the little bit he thought it would, rolling just off the right lip of the cup. Jones sank his par for the 1-up lead.
On 18, Jones aggressively stepped up with his driver and put the ball just right of the green. He chipped it to about five feet for what was another great birdie look.
Jarrett mis-hit his approach shot from the fairway and went over the green. He needed to chip in for birdie to have a chance, something he was not able to do. Jarrett conceded the birdie to Jones as the two shook hands in front of a large gallery that had grown throughout the match.
“Both (Ryan and Nick) are just phenomenal mid-amatuer golfers,” Jones said. “They don’t make mistakes. They don’t make bogeys, so you have to make birdies and hope they miss their birdie putts.”
Jarrett was more disappointed with his birdie putt on hole 17 than he was with the missed par putt. His drive on the par three went a little long of the green, with his ball sitting in a position where he needed to putt through a small patch of the fringe on the Texas-shaped green at AGC.
“My tee shot, I couldn’t have hit it better,” Jarrett said. “I thought it was going to be five feet or less. I just flew a little bit further, which is understandable given the circumstances. I don’t putt through the fringe a lot. When I get around here, I do a little bit more. I thought it was going to be faster. I thought I hit a good putt and it didn’t take off. That one I would like to get back, maybe be a little more aggressive and think through that a little more. If I was going to leave it anywhere, maybe leave it a little long and commit.”
Jarrett putt well throughout the entire round, sinking some clutch opportunities that were right around 10 feet. He matched a birdie putt from Jones on the par-five 12th that set up his run of three straight wins at 13, 14 and 15.
“I’m fully prepared to go into 18 all square and have to make birdie,” Jones said of watching Jarrett putt for par on 17. “That’s exactly what I had to do (in the semifinals)...I don’t think if you give him that putt 10 more times that he misses it.”
This was Jones’ second time playing the Resorters Tournament after qualifying for the championship flight in 2021 but falling in the first round of match play.
Jones got invited to the Resorters through his roommate, Andrew Lindberg. Andrew’s dad, Mark, is from Alexandria and has won multiple Resorters titles himself. Mark added his second straight championship in the Senior Division at this year’s tournament.
Jones will be a graduate student at the University of Texas Arlington this fall. He graduated with a degree in marketing management this past December, so it is a bit unknown if he will still have his amateur status during next year’s Resorters or if he will make a run at turning pro.
“What I keep telling myself and my parents is we’ll see how it goes in the fall with golf at school,” Jones said. “This (Resorters win) is a good start for me. We go back pretty soon, but we’ll see. If I play well in the fall, I’ll probably pursue it a little bit. If not, I’ll probably more pursue a job and play more amateur golf. We’ll see how I’m hitting the ball when I graduate.”