NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — It was quite a homecoming for Dr. Otto Susec on Friday.
The former Barefoot Resort resident shot the lowest score in the championship round of the 30th Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship at the resort’s Dye Club, where he was a member for seven years.
A triumphant return, or so he thought.
But Susec’s name is not on the championship trophy, and there will be no record in World Am annals of the 77 he shot Friday for a net 58 that was four shots better than any other player among the 99 flight leaders in the championship round.
Instead, Rich Brennan of Maumee, Ohio, who shot an 83 for a net 10-under 62, was crowned the champion of the 3,310-player event.
For the second time in eight years, the person with the lowest score in the championship round was disqualified for playing too well for his handicap. Susec entered the tournament with a handicap index of 16 that was adjusted to 19 Friday for the difficulty of the Dye Club.
“When your integrity is important to you … it’s a tough pill to swallow,” Susec said. “I’m very disappointed. You’re supposed to be rewarded for having something spectacular happen to you.”
In 2005’s championship playoff, Al Simon of Charlotte, N.C., shot a 91 for a net 14-under 58 at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and was disqualified.
Jeff Monday, tournament director for World Am operator Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, said to protect the rest of the competitors and for the integrity of the tournament that factors handicaps into scoring, the net 58 couldn’t stand as the winning score. The United States Golf Association’s probability table for handicapped scoring was considered in the decision.
“He played to the best of his ability and it came out to a score that just wasn’t, in our minds, acceptable for a winning score,” Monday said. “… It’s never an insinuation of guilt. It’s not saying anyone did anything wrong or on purpose, it’s just the fact that the USGA handicap system has flaws.
“One of them is if a player is improving at a rate that is quicker than they’re playing golf and actually posting scores, it just doesn’t keep up, and I think that’s where we stand today.”
Susec, 45, who moved to Evansville, Ind., four years ago, had net birdies on his first 12 holes and his final three, and made a 10-foot par putt for a net birdie on the 18th. Susec said he was concerned coming down the stretch about being disqualified.
“I knew I had a three-shot lead [on 18]. If I didn’t have integrity I could have hit it into the water, I could have done all kinds of things. I’m just trying to do the best I can,” he said.
“I’m a medical doctor so I understand the science of probability tables, and that’s what they’re citing as the sole reason. I understand what they’re trying to do. I respectfully disagree today.”
For Brennan, a 66-year-old small publishing company owner who is a member of two courses, the victory was sweet redemption. The 18.3-handicap had won his flight one other time in his handful of World Ams and was in contention in the championship playoff before making what he remembers to be a 19 on his 13th hole.
“That was my worst day in golf and this is my best,” Brennan said. “I left in such a huff I never thought I’d come back, but I was right back the next year. … This is truly amazing. My heart is swelling. It’s like, ‘How did I get here?’ That’s what I keep asking myself.”
Brennan nearly played his way out of the title Friday as well, when he took a 7 on the par-4 18th hole for a net double bogey that dropped him from net 12 under to 10 under.
“I was trying to play a little conservatively because I’ve played this course three times in my lifetime and there are three of my golf balls in that lake out there [to the left side of the hole],” Brennan said. “It was almost like I was playing not to lose instead of to win, and that is not my forte. I want to win or nothing.”
Brennan said his victory isn’t any less rewarding because of Susec’s DQ. “It is what it is,” he said.
Brennan finished a few groups before Susec, and believing he was beaten when Susec made pars for net birdies on his final three holes to post the net 58, Brennan was headed for the parking lot. But he was talked into staying at the Dye Club by a rules official. “I was going to head across the street and go jump in the ocean for a little while,” Brennan said.
Susec stuck around as well, to watch the award ceremony he believes should have been for him.
Susec has been a single digit handicap in the past but said he hasn’t played much golf in the past year until June because his time was restricted after he became a department director at St. Mary’s hospital in Evansville last August. “I never quite brought it together to the point I was before,” Susec said. “It’s been getting a little bit better, and this week I got a little better.”
Susec, a past sponsor of the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am annually at the Dye Club, shot rounds of 86, 87, 87 and 93 in his flight but thought a 50 on his final nine holes Thursday might have kept him from advancing.
“I didn’t think I made it to this round,” Susec said. “Feeling comfortable here at this course I think has a lot to do with [Friday’s score]. I was a member here for many years and to me this course just kind of feels like home.”
It was not quite the homecoming he was hoping for.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.