The wind was blowing away egos and golf scores Saturday at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club. That is, except for one person.
Shawn Stefani, despite the almost-knock-you-down-gusts, was just blowing away the field.
Stefani, 30, shot an improbable 9-under-par 62, tying the Miccosukee Championship tournament record, by somehow directing his ball through the winds that registered more than 35 mph and were almost constantly above 25 mph.
At round’s end, even Stefani was taken aback by what he had just accomplished.
“I knew the weather was going to be blowing [Saturday],” Stefani, 30, said. “You’re just trying to hit it in front of you, hit it solid. I kept telling myself, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’ ”
What happened was some seriously good golf in some seriously tough conditions.
Stefani, with a three-round total of 12-under 201, held a fairly comfortable and certainly enviable six-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round. Alistair Presnell (2-under 69) and Chris DeForest (1-over 72) were tied for second at 207.
Minutes after finishing his round, Stefani looked at his cellphone. “Seventeen texts,” he said. “Boy, I guess I have a lot of friends I didn’t know about.”
Even Stefani’s playing partners gave him a tip of their golf caps, expressing awe for what he had accomplished.
“Obviously, what he did can be done, because he just did it,” said Morgan Hoffman, who was in Stefani’s threesome. “But it sure was impressive. It was difficult out there.”
Stefani hails from Baytown, Texas, and has won $195,311 on the Web.com Tour this season. The Miccosukee Championship would be his second victory of the year, having already won the Midwest Classic in Kansas City. He ranks 16th on the all-important Web.com money list with a PGA Tour card going to the Top 25 money-winners at season’s end. The first-place check from a Miccosukee win, $108,000, would almost certainly ensure winning his card.
Here’s what Stefani accomplished Saturday:
• His 62 matches the Miccosukee Championship one-round record, set by Jason Dufner in 2003 and matched by D.A. Points in 2008.
• His six-stroke lead is the largest 54-hole lead in Miccosukee history. The previous best was three shots by Craig Bowden in 2003 and Jason Kokrak in 2011.
• His 6-under 29 on the front nine on Saturday matched the best in tournament history, set by Bryce Molder in 2004 and Keegan Bradley in 2010.
Also, a good historical sign for Stefani is that in the past nine years, the third-round leader or co-leader of the tournament has gone on to win the event.
Stefani said he started the day “… with no expectations. Shooting 62 is absolutely great. Heck, shooting 72 would have been great [Saturday].”
The Texan takes a simplistic and humorous approach to a game that frustrates so many.
“You just need to let the swing get in the way of the ball,” Stefani said, “or, of course, let the ball get in the way of the swing.”
Stefani was 6-under after seven holes by making birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, making eagle on No. 5 and then making birdies on Nos. 6 and 7.
“You know that at some point it will just leave,” Stefani said. But Saturday, it never did.
During the round, Stefani said he started laughing to himself because things were going so well.
“Absolutely nothing I did went wrong,” he said. “The whole day I was just out there in the wind having fun like a little kid.”