Kent Bulle's steady play and late collapses by a former champion and an amateur challenger helped give the Kentuckian his first victory of the year and his first Kentucky Open Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville.
Bulle of Glasgow entered the third round Thursday with a one-shot lead over amateur Logan Hogge, but he struggled under charges from Hogge and Brandon Brown, the 2011 Open winner.
Brown birdied 13 and 15 to establish a two-shot lead at 11 under, but back-to-back bogeys brought him even with Bulle heading into the 18th.
Brown put it into the water twice at 18 and finished the hole with a triple-bogey 7 to finish at 6-under for the tournament.
"I saw him hit it once in the water," Bulle said about Brown's drives on the final hole. "I knew if I made 4 I could win, but I didn't know what he had made."
All Bulle knew was that he had to make his last putt to defeat Hogge.
Hogge, a senior at Morehead State University and the reigning Kentucky Amateur champion, had a one-shot lead over Bulle at 10-under heading into No. 16, but his tee shot on the par-3 landed far right in the bunker bordering the green.
"I was hitting it good on the front nine," Hogge said. "On the back nine I kind of had a few squirrely shots at the end. I didn't have any idea which way it was going."
A bogey on 16 and a three-putt bogey on No. 17 meant that Bulle entered the final hole with a one-shot lead.
After landing his third shot on the green, all Bulle needed was to save par and hope Hogge missed his putt for birdie — a birdie that would have tied the match, setting up a playoff.
"I just tried to stay patient because you never know how things turn out," Bulle said.
Hogge had a 20-footer for birdie that would have tied it on 18, but even he had doubts about the putt.
"I knew it would have had to take something special for that to have gone in," he said. "I gave it a pretty good effort. I got it up there where I could two-putt it, but there was already a 9 under in so I was like 'I have to make this to get into a playoff.'"
He came up just short.
Things turned favorably for Bulle, whose first putt from 45 feet stopped 12 feet from the hole, setting up a final putt to save par and win the tournament.
"It was a tough two-putt," he said. "It was tough with the shadows to gauge the speed."
Bulle's chances of winning the tournament would have been slim had it not been for Hogge also faltering down the stretch.
For Bulle it meant a payoff for a lot of hard work.
"I've been in 13 countries in the last year and a half," Bulle said of playing on the PGA's LatinoAmerica Tour. "And to come back home and win one in my home state means a bunch."