When you lead a tour event by seven shots with seven holes to play, in almost every case you are a lock to win. That wasnt the situation two years ago when Tiger Woods stole a dream from PGA Tour rookie Matt Gogel. It was one of the more disturbing Sunday scenes in the history of our beloved game, but this young man from Kansas held his head high and listened to the profound words of the worlds No. 1- ranked player just after missing his putt to force a playoff on the 18th green: Be proud.
One year later, a slightly less wet-behind-the-ears Gogel surprisingly made his way to the top of the AT&T leaderboard for the second straight season, thanks to a second round 62 at Spyglass Hill. His mere presence in the lead captured the attention of anyone who witnessed Y2Ks debacle.
However, the question begged, Would he be able to oust the demons lurking from Tigers assault the year before? It only took one day for that answer to surface. A third-round 81 at Poppy Hills instantly erased Gogels chances of victory and perhaps any trace of confidence when holding a lead.
Outside of a few impressive finishes at random PGA Tour events, Pebble is the only place where Gogel has ever scared a win. Surely after his second nightmare came to fruition in 2001, this two-year veteran would harbor a serious grudge against this venue and this tournament. Wouldnt he?
A very smart man once posed this question, What do a hero and a coward have in common? The answer - fear. The only way to overcome a fear is to face it time and time again until it dissipates. Matt Gogel made a concerted effort to continue his rocky affair with this breathtaking golf course by playing it as often as he could.
Later that year, Gogel was invited to play in the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational where he tied for 10th. It was there that a friend, a connected friend, asked him back to play whenever he had the chance. Gogel anxiously took him up on the invitation and brought 15 of his buddies out for the time of their lives, just two weeks before the 2002 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Gogel was facing his fears. He loved his venue and, thanks to his perseverance, learned how to get along with it.
Just a few days ago, one of the best stories in golf began to take shape. For the third consecutive year, Matt Gogel staged a charge at Pebble Beach. As this now three-year veteran, husband and father of a brand new baby girl stood over a 15-foot putt at the par-5 18th that would eventually win the tournament, he said to caddy, Ive made this putt a hundred times. Why cant I make it now? As the old saying goes, the rest is history.
Matt Gogel is now a PGA Tour winner and an example for all who want to call themselves that very same thing. His love affair at Pebble Beach continues and he joins a beautiful list of champions.