Home crowd cheers pair of Kansas golfers to 1-2 finish in KC Golf Classic

Michael Gellerman (right) was congratulated by Drew VanMeeteren, executive director of the KC Golf Classic, after he won the event Sunday at Blue Hill Country Club.
Michael Gellerman (right) was congratulated by Drew VanMeeteren, executive director of the KC Golf Classic, after he won the event Sunday at Blue Hill Country Club. Special to The Star

Stuck in the rough after a 30-minute rain delay, Harry Higgs plunged his 6-iron into the wet tangle of grass, sending his ball toward the pair of covered bleachers surrounding the 18th green at Blue Hills Country Club.

With Higgs trailing the course leader by just one stroke, the ball clanged satisfyingly off the flag before dropping not far from the hole, setting up the Kansas City native for a crucial birdie on the last hole of the tournament.

But with the home crowd nervously holding its breath, Higgs missed the ensuing putt, essentially dashing any hopes he had of winning the Tour KC Golf Classic on Sunday.

“That putt usually comes back from the left, but the darn thing went down on the right,” said Higgs, who carded 4-under 68 in the final round and finished the tournament in second place (10-under).

A Blue Valley North alum, Higgs is no stranger to both the KC Golf Classic and Blue Hills Country Club. He first qualified for the KC Golf Classic as a high schooler during its inaugural year in 2009, when it was played at LionsGate in Overland Park, while he also grew up playing at Blue Hills.

With bad weather throughout this year’s event, not every golfer was able to get in a full 18-hole practice round, meaning Higgs’ familiarity with the course gave him an upper hand.

While he didn’t win the tournament, he did record a career-high finish for the Tour, his previous best coming two weeks earlier at the Dormie Network Classic in San Antonio, Texas, in which he finished tied for ninth.

“To (be successful) here was great; I was really happy with how I handled myself,” Higgs said. “I’ve done this before and I’ve played in front of home, and you can get kind of irritated with all that goes on, the movement and shaking throughout the week — I found a way to enjoy it.”

The man to better Higgs was a fellow Kansan, as Sterling native Michael Gellerman took home the $121,500 prize for finishing first. Gellerman carded a 3-under 69 in the final round to finish the weekend at 11-under.

“It’s awesome obviously to win anywhere, but to do it in your home state is really, really cool,” Gellerman said. “Surrounded by my parents — my mom on Mother’s Day — my fiance and all my friends, it’s just been really fun.”

“It was good because I kind of lacked on the (Mother’s Day) presents, so I really needed to come in clutch down the stretch,” he added with a laugh.

Gellerman was showered with beer by a band of friends following his victory.

“It’s so cool. I had a couple of 15- to 20-footers and you hear the roar and you’re going to pick the ball up out of the hole and you’re kind of like shaking, feel like you’re going to fall over,” Higgs said. “But on the other side of it, you do that but you’ve got to find a way to settle down, or come as close to settling down as you can.”

“But it was second to none,” he continued. “Kansas City deserves one of the best golf tournaments on any tour, especially this tour, and I’m looking forward to Blue Hills hosting and the event and getting better and better every year.”