RIVERSIDE — Matthew Walker has stood over thousands of putts.
Never ones, however, like the ones he stood over on the 18th hole on Sunday at Blue Top Ridge.
The former two-time Iowa high school state champion and three-time Ottumwa City Golf men's champion won his first title as a professional. Walker won a one-hole playoff over Gavin Hall to claim the 86th Iowa Open, becoming the third Ottumwa native to win the tournament and first from the City of Bridges since Bob Moreland in 1981.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet”, Walker said. “It was a lot more nerve wracking than I wanted but I guess I didn’t know what to expect going into my third Professional start, so it’s really good to get the win.”
Walker finished the tournament at 13-under-par with a three-round total of 203, including a final round 65 (-7). Playing with former University of Iowa teammates Alex and Carson Schaake, Walker started Sunday's final round six shots behind defending Iowa Open champion Dan Woltman before starting his charge early with three straight birdies to cut the deficit in half.
Walker stayed within three shots of the lead at the turn with back-to-back birdies on the eighth and ninth holes. While multiple golfers went up and down the leaderboard, Walker held steady with five straight pars before back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th suddenly gave the Ottumwa native a two-shot lead.
That lead evaporated on a single shot. Hall polished off a final-round 61 (-9) by holing out for an eagle from 122 yards out on the 18th hole. Walker missed a birdie on the same closing hole that would have clinched the title in regulation.
In the playoff, Hall hit first into a fairway bunker. Walker put his drive down the middle of the fairway and applied pressure to Hall’s second shot.
Hall had an awkward stance in the bunker and could only advance the ball 100 yards. Walker threw a dart to the backside of the green.
Hall pitched his third shot to 15 feet. Hall two putted from there to make a bogey.
Walker etched his name into the history books with a two-putt par from 10 feet. Walker and Hall finished the three-day tournament 13-under-par.
While Walker was becoming the third Ottumwa native to win the Iowa Open, current Ottumwa High School golfers Joe Hammer, Steven Langland and Cale Leonard were taking part in the Iowa Junior Open. Hammer tied for third place in the boys' 16-18 year-old tournament, shooting a 76 (+4) while Langland tied for eighth with a 81 (+9). Leonard finished third outright in the boys' 14-15 year-old tournament with a round of 85 (+13).