Ryan Hietala, a 13-year veteran of the Web.com Tour, battled heavy wind Sunday to finish with a final-round 70 and win the Palmer Golf Course Invitational.
Leading the 36-hole event at the start of the day, after opening with a 3-under 69 Saturday, Hietala maintained a steady game plan in a howling wind that looked as though it may uproot a tree or two.
"I just kept it in play and I didn't have any penalty strokes," he said. "I don't think I had a three-putt."
Hietala, who won $3,500 for his efforts, couldn't afford to give up any strokes to a balky putter, because Canadian golf pro Norm Jarvis was making up ground with a bogey-free 66. Shooting the low round of the day was good enough to move Jarvis from a tie for eighth into solo second and win $2,500.
Because the tournament format grouped each of the 21 pros with three amateurs and placed each group on a different hole for a 9 a.m. shotgun start, Jarvis and Hietala had no way of knowing where they stood throughout the day. Still, both said they had a pretty good idea as they made their way through their closing holes.
Hietala's best shot of the weekend may have been his final putt, he said. Finishing at the 15th hole, a 204-yard par 3 playing dead into a gale, Hietala left his tee shot in three-putt territory but managed to leave himself a tap-in for the win.
"I paced it off, and it was 72 feet," Hietala said. "Of all the (birdie) putts I've had the last two days, that's the only one I felt might go in. I knew a birdie or par might win it."
Jarvis squandered a few chances to take the lead, missing three makable birdie putts of 15 feet or less on his last three holes. He said his otherwise hot putter was the primary reason he had a chance to win. After tinkering with his putter Saturday night, Jarvis discovered an adjustment that made things click to the tune of six Sunday birdies.
"Today, I putted probably the best I've putted in a long time," he said.
Jarvis, 60, was also feeling the best he has in a few years after battling and beating throat cancer two years ago. The Vancouver resident has played in the Palmer tournament since its inception nearly 20 years ago, winning the event once. He has come to thoroughly enjoy golf in Alaska, also winning professional events in Fairbanks and Kenai.
Hietala, 38, is connected to Alaska through Anchorage golf pro Rob Nelson, who caddied for Hietala on the PGA Tour in 2006 and is currently Hietala's swing coach.
Hietala, who lives in Boise, made a speedy exit Sunday night to catch a plane to the next Web.com Tour stop in Omaha, Neb., but said he would love to return to Alaska to defend his title next summer.
Sometimes Hietala takes his golf game a little too seriously and struggles to enjoy himself on the course, but the trip to Alaska served as a nice break from the tour grind and perhaps a bit of a confidence boost. Every time frustration started getting the better of him during the weekend, he used a trick to calm himself down.
"You just gotta lift your head up and look at the beautiful surroundings," he said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
Palmer Golf Course Invitational
Professionals -- 1) Ryan Hietala, 69-70 -- 139; 2) Norm Jarvis, 74-66 -- 140; 3) (tie) Aaron Dexheimer, 73-68 -- 141; Billy Bomar, 69-72 -- 141; 5) Rob Nelson, 71-71 -- 142; 6) (tie) Bryan Anderson, 71-74 -- 145; Casey Cusack, 72-72 -- 145; 8) Jeff Lyons, 73-73 -- 146; 9) Rich Lundahl, 74-73 -- 147; 10) James Contreras, 74-75 -- 149; 11) (tie) Joe Butler, 75-77 -- 152; Nolan Rose, 76-76 -- 152; 13) Ryan Sparks, 76-79 -- 155; 14) (tie) John McBride, 75-81 -- 156; Bill Enberg, 75-81 -- 156; 16) (tie) Trevis Kordus, 79-79 -- 158; Mark Dolesji, 77-81 -- 158; Trafis Jorgenson, 81-77 -- 158; 19) Ken Parker, 79-81 -- 160; 20) Brandon Kaiser, 83-78 -- 161; 21) Jim Triplett, 91-83 -- 174.
Amateur (top 5 gross) -- 1) Greg Sanders, 69-73 -- 142; 2) Dave Hamilton, 73-74 -- 147; 3) (tie) Ross Martin, 77-77 -- 154; Tim Ruf, 77-77 -- 154; Jason Kincannon, 80-74 -- 154.
Amateur (top 5 net) -- 1) Rick Townsend, 65-64 -- 129; 2) James Seal, 67-70 -- 137; 3) Mylo Nactwick, 70-69 -- 139; 4) John MacMullen, 72-69 -- 141; 5) David Cosgrave, 68-74 -- 142.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News