Assistant Sports Editor
KILLINGTON -- Devin Komline knew his 2012 Vermont Amateur would be a race against time, a 72-hole tete-a-tete with an unpredictable swing.
He won the first two days. His injured back won Thursday, effectively robbing the Dorset Field Club lefty, the two-time defending champion, of a full-bodied bid for a three-peat.
At 22, he had already scored runaway wins of six and eight shots.
Staring up at the leaderboard at Mike Stackus, the eventual champion by some nine shots himself, was a stark moment of clarity.
"It's the moment you realize you don't have a chance when someone's going low -- it's hard to swallow because you don't want to be out there playing for nothing," said Komline, who finished tied for sixth at 9-over par.
"It was weird, I was walking down 17 [trailing]," he said. "Now I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of that whip and it's not a good feeling, it's a demoralizing feeling, like you don't have a chance.
"Props to Mike for doing that."
Komline started the 36-hole finale two shots back, tied for third at 3-under. Two nasty misfires in the morning round saw him slide with a 75. The afternoon wasn't any better, either, as he closed with a 77 and the knowledge that his two-year reign had ended, essentially, many holes earlier as Stackus continued to pile birdies upon birdies.
"By 10 [in the morning], I knew it was over -- after my second shank of the first nine I knew it was pretty much over," Komline said. "I just tried to enjoy it as much as I could."
Going for a mid-round swim
Yes, Casey Komline putted out shoeless on the second hole of his final round.
The shoes were bone-dry. But the golfer: Soaking wet.
Nothing quite like a little mid-round dip in the pond.
"I'll never forget it," playing partner Evan Russell said. "That was hilarious."
Komline had just "chunked" his approach shot on the par-4 into the water hazard that separates the fairway landing area from the green.
Where his ball was sitting, though, on the green-side of the pond, about two inches into the water and slightly submerged, made him think he had a chance to play it out.
"My dad immediately wanted me to drop it, but I wanted to go see if it was OK," Komline said.
Shoes off, Komline put one foot into the water -- a steep bowl lined with surprisingly slippery, black plastic. His foot slid, but held.
As he settled into his stance over the ball, he began to slide.
And slide. And slide. Shoulder-deep.
"I look up at Evan and he's just laughing at me as I slide into the water," Komline said.
"I was waiting for his head to go under," Russell said.
His club above water, Komline tossed it out of the hazard and stuck his glove in his mouth, freeing his hands to help crawl out of the man-made lagoon.
Returning to the opposite side of the pond to drop, the Appalachian State junior ended up taking a triple bogey, Post-round, in good spirits after rebounding to shoot 73, Komline said it took about 10 holes before he felt dry again.
"My boxer [shorts] are still a little wet right now," Komline said. "But it was kind of nice, the breeze kept me cool."
"Who was catching Stackus?"
Devin Komline asked the question after the tournament. It might have been appropriate 18 holes earlier.
Quite simply, Stackus played on a different plane than the rest of the field Thursday. His 14-birdie day -- he had a whopping 26 during the 72-hole tournament, three more than Komline in his 12-under win at Neshobe last year.
And also, quite simply, it wasn't last year, when Stackus held the 36-hole lead at Neshobe but faltered at a course on which he never found a comfort zone.
"I like this golf course, it feels like my own backyard," Stackus said. "I see it, I see the holes, I see the way they're laid out, I'm seeing the greens very well, I'm comfortable.
"To have 26 birdies over a 72-hole period you've got to be comfortable."