NORMAN — As Michael Gellerman walked off the 18th green Sunday afternoon, the Championship Flight of the Westwood Invitational already in his bag, the rising Oklahoma junior, likely destined for the Sooner top five when the college golf season begins again in the fall, was shaking his head.
“He’s my best friend,” Gellerman said of the player he clipped by a stroke for the title, Austin Fuller. “But we still want to beat each other as bad as anything.”
Just not like this.
Gellerman three-putted the final hole for a bogey 5, an unfortunate end to his final-round 68 and his winning 201 total.
The three-putt opened the door for Fuller, who had five or six feet coming back to the hole for his own two-putt. Needing to make it to force a playoff, Fuller left the ball on the cup’s front right lip.
“I wish both of us would have made birdie,” Gellerman said.
So he was shaking his head. Conflicted. Though happy to win, he didn’t want to see his buddy lose that way.
“I’ll always root for this guy,” Gellerman said.
It was just one scene from the three days and 54 holes that made up the Westwood Invitational.
It is part top flight golf tournament, part reunion, part cookout and part happy hour. And it’s still the state’s largest stroke play event.
Gellerman became the first current Sooner golfer to win it and you hope he comes back to defend, very possibly about a month after appearing at the 2014 NCAA championship.
It would be great, but not required, for the tourney is self-sustaining, be it by the handful of first-year players who finally choose to give it a whirl, or by the tourney’s lifeblood, the repeaters, some of whom go back decades.
Mark Crabtree is one of those who goes back decades.
He’s 52 years old, graduated from Norman High in 1979, won a national championship at Cameron, in 1983, along with former NHS teammate Richard Ryden (and Freddie Wisdom, too, a two-time Westwood Invitational champion, though he hasn’t been in the field for a few years).
And the best thing about Crabtree, a professional golf instructor, who’s traveled the world teaching the game, and now does it for MetaGolf, in the Denver area, is the figure he cuts.
He carries his own bag, plays without a glove, but with a watch and a couple of rings on his left wrist and fingers. Like, as long as his clubs are in the car, he’s ready to play.
He carries his own bag!
“I don’t play well in a cart,” he said. “It’s hurry up and wait.”
He doesn’t play much, period. Crabtree said he was lucky if he gets in a couple rounds a month. At least he’s on the practice tee, almost every day, tutoring somebody.
He finished second in 2001 and third in 2002 and 2003.
Sunday, Crabtree placed eighth after coming in at 212.
“This is where I grew up,” he said.
There was one more scene Sunday. All at the same time, it was not a part of the Westwood Invitational and all about the Westwood Invitational.
The tournament was over. The brisket, potato salad and beer had been taken away. All the out-of-town winners and placers had cashed in their pro-shop credit.
The scores were still up and that was about it when Ann Harcourt, accompanied by Cheryl Stucker Carpenter and Jae Carpenter appeared at the course.
Ann is Ron Stucker’s widow. Cheryl is Ron Stucker’s sister and Jae is Ron Stucker’s brother in law.
Ron was the Westwood Invitational. Of the event’s first 32 incarnations, he directed, coordinated and, really, hosted 30 of them, only missing 1977 and ‘94, and only missing the last one because he took his Ann to see Eagles in Dallas for their “Hell Freezes Over” tour.
Stucker died in 2008.
Late Sunday evening, Harcourt brought his ashes to the course.
“It’s five years and I’m ready to celebrate his life in a way,” she said, “that to this point I haven’t been emotionally ready to do.”
Harcourt said Stucker was unbearably shy, but Westwood “was a place that allowed him to shine.”
It was a sweet ending to three days of good golf, good friends, good food and good times.
Next year, they’ll do it again.