Deron Zendt (right) reacts after sinking a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the 2020 GCSAA National Championship. His playing partners, Seth Strickland (center) and Steve Gilley (left), finished second and third, respectively. Photos by Montana Pritchard
Deron Zendt’s second GCSAA National Championship will be one to remember.
In a back-nine showdown unlike any in recent tournament memory, the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, Fla. — and winner of the event in 2014 — outlasted a pair of other past champions to prevail in the 2020 tournament, contested on the International Course at ChampionsGate on Monday.
Zendt was the first-round leader after shooting a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday, but as the tournament entered its final nine holes, he found himself locked in a tight contest with the other two members of his threesome: three-time champion Seth Strickland (2005, 2008 and 2009), the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Miami Shores (Fla.) Country Club, and 2019 champion Steve Gilley, superintendent at Panorama Golf Club in Conroe, Texas.
The pressure of a national championship on the line could have taken its toll on all three players. Instead, the trio combined for 13 birdies on the back nine of ChampionsGate’s International Course, each shooting a 4-under-par 32.
What ultimately gave the title to Zendt, a 21-year GCSAA member, was a one-shot advantage that he carried into the back nine and a clutch ability to protect that lead when it mattered most — he birdied three of the final four holes, highlighted by a pressure-packed 5-foot putt on 18, to finish the day at 3-under-par 69 and the tournament at 5-under-par 139.
Zendt made four birdies on the back nine during the final round of the GCSAA National Championship — including three on the final four holes — on his way to total of 3-under-par 69. He finished the 36-hole event at 5-under-par 139.
Zendt’s victory on Monday earned him his second GCSAA National Championship. He had previously won in 2014.
Strickland, an 18-year member of GCSAA, could’ve forced a playoff with his fellow Floridian were it not for a 25-foot birdie try on the par-3 17th that rimmed out of the hole. Instead, he finished the tournament in second place, with a two-day total of 4-under-par 140. Gilley, a seven-year member of the association, finished alone in third place at 3-under-par 141.
The senior division title in the National Championship when to Michael Stieler, CGCS, from Spring Creek Golf and Country Club in Ripon, Calif. The 24-year GCSAA member recorded a two-day total of 8-over-par 152.
In the Chapter Team competition, the gross division crown went to the Florida GCSA No. 1 team, made up of Zendt; Strickland; Walter Chavez from Miami Beach Golf Club; and Bryce Koch, CGCS, from Cypress Lake Golf Club in Fort Meyers. The net division winner was the No. 1 team from the Lone Star GCSA, which included Gilley; Tanner Chrastecky from Houston Oaks Golf Course in College Station, Texas; Shawn Westacott from Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas; and Edward Martinez from Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.
For a full rundown of all the results from the 2020 GCSAA Golf Championships, which were presented in partnership with The Toro Co. for the 26th consecutive year, see the GCSAA Golf Championships on Golf Genius.
The 2021 event will be contested in Palm Springs, Calif., Jan. 29-31.
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.