Herman and 2006 Shootout winner Royale Brogan were the last men standing on the 9th green in front of the clubhouse after surviving the previous eight holes which saw 22 fellow competitors bite the dust.
No one is immune to the cruel nature of the sudden death format of this 22-year-old annual golfing fixture with the club’s top men’s players, William Howard and three-times event winner Nga Manuela, amongst the five players sent packing on the first hole.
While the dismissals may be sudden – the first hole took well over an hour to complete given the number of contestants and may have accounted for the top players losing their usual rhythm.
Between holes two and three a further eight contenders were knocked out of play.
From the fourth, 11 players continued on with just the youthful Katey Karati and determined veteran Maara Kenning left to fly the flag for the club’s women members.
After the 4th, bogey sixes saw Bruce Manuela and this year’s Rarotonga Open winner Kristopher Williamson sent to the sidelines.
From then on it was down to the real business with just one player leaving the field after each of the five holes remaining.
Unfortunately for the ladies, it was the 2003 event winner Maara Kenning – in a chip-off with eventual runner-up Royale Brogan – and Katey Karati who fell by the wayside over the next two holes.
On the par three seventh hole of the event James Herman kept himself out of danger with a long par three birdy putt.
In the resulting three-way chip off – and a testament to how gruelling this event is for even the best golfers – three-times Shootout champion Sonny Karati chunked his attempt into the bunker – leaving Daniel Webb and Brogan with no pressure chips to stay in the game and whittle the field down to just three contenders.
There was high drama on the penultimate 8th hole with Herman and Daniel Webb given a difficult chip-off challenge after Brogan won the hole outright.
Herman, chipping from the raised 6th tee down to the 8th green, bounced on thick grass, coming up short on the fringe.
Webb tried to play a perfect shot at the flag but the down slope of the green saw his ball roll off the far edge, ending his Shootout bid for 2017.
Herman and Brogan quickly climbed to the spectacular 9th tee for the final last hole showdown to be played out on the green in front of the club house.
No one was looking at the view as both golfers launched from up high, both finding the middle of the fairway.
Brogan,some 60 metres behind Herman, hit a rescue club to six metres short of the green leaving a long but relatively easy chip. Or so it looked.
Herman, from 150 metres, punched a six iron to bounce and run nicely on to the green – only to agonisingly roll off into the side bunker, pin high.
Brogan chipped on from just off the green– it looked perfect as it rolled up but the greens were racey and the ball went by a touch too far to be easy – a metre and a half from the pin.
Herman looked to be the most disadvantaged as he played his third shot from the sand, with little room to land between the fringe and the pin.
“I’m not a good bunker player,” Herman confessed after the match. “I was so nervous. I had two options – get it out on to the green safely and hope we both two-putt to force the chip off – or play for the flag.”
As often is the case in golf, amazing things happen. Herman played a near perfect sand shot, the ball rising on a cushion of sand to roll to rest just 15 centimetres from the hole.
“I could play that shot 20 more times and never get it that close again,” he said.
Herman’s four was undoubtable as the pressure returned to Brogan as the crowd hushed. But the task proved too tricky with Brogan’s short putt running away from the hole for bogey.
With a quick high-five on the green, Brogan acknowledged Herman’s win and the Michigan Motors Shootout for 2017 was decided.
“I’m ecstatic, Herman said. “Over the moon. I didn’t really realise it was going to be a back-to-back win until I was on the final hole. To come out and win was such a great feeling.”
Herman’s consecutive wins in the Shootout was the first in the club’s history.
With golf the pressure is never off – next year the two-times champion will face the challenge of making it a three-peat.
- Gray Clapham