Shawn Stefani walked away Sunday with $108,000 for winning the Miccosukee Golf Championship. Yet, a red pouch that contained the grand sum of 75 cents might have meant much more to him.
During his golfing career, Stefani developed a tradition of using a quarter, always with a date in the ’60s, to mark his balls. Use a ’60s quarter and a round in the ’60s might be in the offing was his thinking. In 2008, Stefani’s girlfriend Jackie, knowing about Stefani’s superstition, gave him three quarters — 1959, 1961 and 1962 — in that red pouch.
So, when Stefani won Sunday’s championship and all that money using one of those quarters, his first call, while he was still in the scorer’s tent, was to Jackie back in Texas.
“She was happy, very happy,” Stefani said, understating the obvious.
Stefani, who entered Sunday’s final round with a six-shot lead, fashioned a 3-under-par 68 Sunday to finish at 15-under 269 and defeat runner-up Alistair Presnell (67-274) by five shots.
The turning point seemingly came on No. 14. Stefani, 30, plopped his second shot six feet from the pin, only to see Presnell one-up him. Presnell lofted a second-shot wedge with the ball hitting the pin and ending up one foot away. Both players made the birdie putts and the lead remained three strokes with four holes to play.
That was too many strokes with too few holes left for Presnell.
“You expect somebody to come out and make a move,” Stefani said, “and Presnell did. If he continued to make birdies, I couldn’t control that.”
At the start of Sunday’s round, Presnell almost immediately chiseled into Stefani’s lead with birdies on three of the first five holes. Meanwhile, Stefani had bogeys on two of the first six holes, with birdies on Nos. 3 and 5.
“Starting like that, I thought it might be good enough and that I might have a chance,” said Presnell, a 33-year-old Australian.
Presnell conceded that Stefani probably won the championship when he tied the Miccosukee course record with a 9-under 62 under the most horrid of playing conditions on Saturday. “What he did on Saturday was unbelievable,” Presnell said. “Anybody who shoots 9-under in those winds deserves to win.”
By the way, guess which quarter Stefani was using when he shot that 62 on Saturday. Yes, the 1962 quarter.
“Used it all week,” he said.
Stefani said he never considered playing it safe with the big lead going into the final round. “I was not worried about having a six-stroke lead and protecting it,” he said. “... I didn’t beat myself, but give him [Presnell] credit for putting pressure on me.”
The $108,000 Stefani won was a nice chunk of change, accompanied by a crystal trophy and an authentic Miccosukee Tribe shirt (size extra large for the 6-2, 200-pound Stefani). However, the most important thing he clinched Sunday was his PGA Tour card because there is no doubt he will finish among the Top 25 money-winners on the Web.com Tour, and those players automatically receive their cards.
“The card means the world,” Stefani said. “I’ll be playing with the best in the world next year. A lot of sweat and a lot of work went into that.”
Stefani talked repeatedly about having patience with his game and his career as he toiled through a myriad of low-paying, minor-league events much of his career.
He also knows someone else has had to show her patience. That would be girlfriend Jackie. “She’s probably more patient than I am,” Stefani said. “She’s never given up on me.’’
And, of course, she came up with 75 cents — those three lucky quarters — exactly when Stefani needed them.
So, the victory secured, Stefani promised one thing:
“I have and I will in the future take real good care of those quarters,” he said. “I promise I will never lose them.”