“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” –Coach Jimmy Valvano

First off, I give all glory to God. We can have these dreams for ourselves like winning a golf tournament and He can then go and write it in to an even better story. I never imagined I would shoot the score I did in those conditions this past Sunday. I never imagined that I would somehow take the lead after being down by 6 shots with only 18 holes to play. I never dreamt that I would make two long birdie putts to finish off the tournament. He is there always and has heard my prayers and I can’t help but wonder if He was smiling and maybe even giggling above as my putts rolled in the hole Sunday. I’ll ask one day…

I have had this feeling in my bones for a few weeks now that I was going to win. I told a few close friends and family that I wouldn’t be surprised to get a win soon. My brother sent me a picture of our text conversation after my win from this past week when I said I’m going to win this thing. I am not one to be boastful about my game (quite opposite, very critical) but sometimes you just know. I have had a hole-in-one on holes 4 and 17 at Blackthorn Golf Club as well as a double eagle on hole 16. The only thing left for me to do was to win and I accomplished my goal. I just didn’t have a clue that I would have to overcome a 6 shot deficit and actually win it by 3. I guess all things are possible.

This was a difficult decision for me to play South Bend and Decatur events earlier in the year when I was faced with an opportunity to return to Zambia with Golf Fore Africa. I am dying to go back to Africa but knew the timing of tournaments wasn’t a wise professional decision. I sure am glad my decision paid off. Betsy King and Debbie Quesada from GFA have been some of my biggest prayer warriors. I texted one of my dear friends who is our World Vision Zambia Liaison “T” to tell them the good news the moment they got off the plane in Africa. They were thrilled to hear.
Earlier in the week I was texting with my coach Jeff Brehaut (Los Altos, CA) and he gave me the goal of 6 birdies a day. I’ve realized a goal like that is apparently good for me. I had 5 on Friday and only 4 on Saturday. As I drove to the course Sunday morning my goal was to simply play a solid round of golf. I wanted to see that I could put three good rounds together even though I felt my Saturday round was poor. My dad texted me Sunday morning saying, “6 birdies will be good enough. Try to eliminate those bogeys.” He is a wise man… I responded that I would need at least 8 birdies because these girls are good.

The next part is mainly for my poor memory because I want to be able to remember this round so please feel free to skip:

• Warming up – it was blowing a hoolie. I told my caddie Billy let’s keep the ball low all day.
• #1 – Hit a nice three wood off the tee down to a funny lie in the fairway. I hit a nice little 9 iron up there and two putted for par.
• #2 – Hit a 7 Wood down to the edge of the fairway. Strong right to left and helping wind. 7i from 179 out. Bounced near the front of the green and took a crazy hop right to left. I had no idea which ball was mine when we approached the green and turns out it was 6 feet away. I can only guess it hit an old French drain for that wild bounce it took. I missed the putt. Par.
• #3 – Driver to 110 out. Knock down PW to 6 feet. Made the putt. Birdie.
• #4 – (Hole-in-one 2013) 7 iron and a great two putt par.
• #5 – Ripped driver down to 97 yards out. 55 degree up to the green. Two putt par.
• #6 – Par 5 driver, 6i lay up. Stuck a nice little wedge from 74 yards out to 6 feet above the hole. Slick putt. Center cut. Birdie.
• #7 – Par 3 that gave me trouble all week. 125 yards into a breeze. Knock down 9 to behind the hole. Lipped out my birdie putt. Par.
• #8 – Par 4 straight into the teeth. Driver just hopping in left rough. I had to keep an 8iron low from tree branches from 147 out. It finished pin high and I made the double breaking putt (straight putt overall) for a gift of a birdie.
• #9 – Par 5 ripped driver down the right side of the fairway that bounded forward and left towards the green. I only had a 6i into the green from a downhill lie. 182 front. 190 pin. My second shot finished just in front of the green and I chipped up to inches. Birdie. (Inside story – caddie Billy and I were betting for drinks all tournament as I kept wanting to chip in…I had two chip-ins the day before. The ante kept going up.)

At this point I’m -7 for the tournament and knew I had some opportunities on the back to find a few more circles on my scorecard.

• #10 – Par 4. Driver to 136 yards out. I hit a little 8i because it was into the wind and it finished pin-high left on the fringe. I had about a 20-foot putt and the ball went in the cup. I’ll be honest and say that one was a gift. I was just trying to get in close. I’m not really sure I had it in mind to hole it but it did so that was a pure gift.
• #11 – Par 4. They moved us to the forward tee to tempt us by going for it. 80 yards up? Yep. I went for it. 3 wood to the front of the green. A simple up and down 3-foot birdie putt to go 6 under for the day.
• #12 – Par 3. 172 right to left helping wind. The pin sat on the back right ledge and I wanted to hit something pin high and left. I decided to push smooth a smooth 6i at the flag. (Did not mean to.) It flew pin high and released over the green. Thankfully I had a good lie and 7 paces to deal with by getting it up and down. My caddie and I once again placed a “drink bet” by chipping it in. That apparently works well with me… No chip-in but I made a 3-foot par putt which was great to keep the momentum on my side.
• #13 – Par 5. I hit a 3 wood to the end of the fairway. I chose a 7i to lay up with for my second shot. I had 92 yards to the pin for my third shot and clipped my 55 degree wedge nicely. I didn’t get much of a response from the gallery after what I thought was a perfect approach shot. I walked up and saw that it flew the front left corner but sucked off the front down into a thin little gulley. The chip/lie was a touch uncomfortable but I made sure I gave myself a par putt. I put it about 8 feet above the hole. SLICK. I chose my line, trusted it, and left the rest up to chance. The putt fell. Par. Move on to the next.
• #14 – Par 4. I ripped a driver down the fairway. I had only 110 yards to the pin. I hit a thin gap wedge to the green and had a 20-foot birdie putt look. I MURDERED my first putt 6 feet past. Once again, I trusted my line and hit a good putt, leaving the rest up to chance. The putt fell. HUGE. A man in the gallery said, “Good putt Kendall!” I said, “Thanks but which one are you talking about?” That chapter was closed and I was looking on to hole 15, which turns the other way, looking down on my home stretch.
• #15 – Par 4. Busted a driver into the wind to only 106 yards to the pin. I hit a little PW into the wind to the back of the green. It was a funny read but I trusted my notes and tapped in for par.

***I finally saw the leaderboard and saw DYE at -9 with a ton of great players at -7. In some ways at this point I have to think of individual talents and who is long, etc. and who can stand a chance at getting home in 2 on #16. My only thought was I need to get at least one or two more birdies because as well as know, prevent defense is the worst thing in any sport.

• #16 – Par 5 (double eagle in ’12) I ripped possibly my best drive of the day up and over a tall left tree guarding the fairway. The wind was moving left to right off the tee so it was imperative that I trust my line and swing it to keep it from going in jail in the trees in the right rough. I get down there to a downhill lie in the left rough with 173 yards to the front edge. Bunkers guard the front part of the green and there’s no trouble long, just thin lies back up to a thin short pin. We could have played it five different ways but I decided to rip on a 5-iron and try to get in the front part of the bunker. I figured I could get more spin out of it that way. The 5i came out of the rough perfectly but came up a little shorter that I had hoped. I had a longer bunker shot but put it up to about 10 feet for birdie. I finally had a good look at birdie. It had been a while. I didn’t give it enough pace and it fell short, left to right.
• #17 – Par 3 (hole-in-one 2016) 150 yards to a pin cut way left. The wind was moving left to right but I was looking just right of the pin. I played the number and drew a baby 7 in there to about 20 feet behind the hole. I was more worried about the pace than the line because it was down the hill. I played it just a touch out right and the ball fell. In. Again! Ok. Alright. Move on to the last. Finish strong.
• #18 – Par 4. I hit a great driver down wind to the left rough. I had 118 yards to the front edge of the green. 133 yards to the hole that’s cut on the right side of the green. Downwind. I ask my caddie if I can look at the hole and he said “no chance.” I knew 129 yards would cover if I snuck it over by the hole and only 123 yards would cover the smart and safe route. I loved my lie in the rough and I had wind helping. It was a PW all day. My caddie thought a smooth 9i. That’s when I had my opportunity to say “Billy, when are you ever going to trust how far I can hit things?!” He giggled his Birmingham, AL giggle and off I went. It came off the club great and had a wonderful bounce forward and towards the right hole location. As we walked Billy said, “Now all you need is a two putt. Snuggle it up there.” I personally have never been told that. I have watched a billion golf rounds on TV and know that his statement was wise but my response was “blankity-blank NO I’m making this putt!” I can honestly tell you I never once had jitters, nerves, heart out-of-the-chest feelings, etc. I guess that means I’m flat out old. On my final putt that I read a cup or two outside left, I had full feeling in my hands and body. That sucker fell in. Can you believe it because I still can’t?! I literally cannot believe that that was MY finish of a tournament. I am a sports fan and that’s as cool as you can get for a Symetra Tour victory.

Some really neat things to have come from Sunday’s victory are first and foremost hearing from so many people: friends, family, Pro-Am partners from over the years, sponsors, etc. It was so great to hear from so many people within a few short hours. It was a touch overwhelming, but wonderful! The win also gave a platform for Golf Fore Africa. One South Bend journalist asked me about the Foundation that is so near and dear to my heart and for that, I am grateful! Professionally, of course, it helped me jump up the money list into the Top Ten where I strive to be at the end of the season. Also, I will now have a gold PING putter in the PING Gold Putter Vault at their World Headquarters in Phoenix. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a putter in there and now I do. I’m going to work hard at getting another putter in there, and another.

Winning sure is fun. It’s been 2 ½ years since I last tasted victory and it sure beats the alternative. It proved to me that I am able to come back from any deficit and I can take it deep, no matter the conditions. I truly believe caddying for my best friend, Kristy McPherson, for five rounds in the last month and a half really helped me mentally. I was on the other side of the ball and I realized a lot of things about myself as a golfer.

There are so many people to thank for this past weekend to have been possible. You know who you are. Thank you! Love you!