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Gibb qualifies for U.S. Senior Open

Fort Dodge resident tops two Tour regulars in playoff for lone spot

Submitted photo: Fort Dodge's Judd Gibb poses with his USGA Senior Open qualifier medal and certificate on Wednesday in Prior Lake, Minn.

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. — Tim Herron has won nearly $20 million during his 25-year career as a PGA professional.

At a U.S. Senior Open qualifier here on Wednesday, though, Herron couldn’t find a way to beat Judd Gibb.

In fact, no one could.

Fort Dodge’s Gibb defeated Herron and Council Bluffs native Jerry Smith in a playoff at The Wilds Golf Club to secure the championship and the event’s lone available spot for the 2021 PGA Champions Tour major, which will be July 8-11 at the Omaha Country Club.

All three golfers had carded three-under par 69s in regulation play. Herron’s three-putt bogey in sudden death eliminated him from contention, and after Smith missed a short birdie putt to win on the next playoff hole, Gibb steadily sealed the win with three consecutive pars.

“It’s just such an overwhelming honor,” said Gibb, a 1987 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate. “I’ve never played in a USGA championship. It’s always been a dream of mine. This was a tough course, and we found out (on Tuesday night) that only one of us (from the field) would advance. So the pressure was on.

“I had a really solid round and got into the playoff with Tim, a well-known PGA pro with a track record that speaks for itself, and Jerry, a good friend of mine who has played in the U.S. Open a handful of times and is in the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame (Smith has accrued $5 million in career earnings as a pro). They are both terrific players. But (Wednesday) was my day.”

The 52-year-old Gibb had advanced into the PGA Championship field last summer, thanks to his season-long performance. Due to COVID-19, the official final qualifier for the event was cancelled and Gibb — a former Iowa State University team captain — reached the major’s field based on accumulated points.

“That never felt quite right, though,” Gibb admitted. “I know I’d technically earned it and very few people would understand the difference, but I wanted to play my way in (through a qualifier). As a competitor, you always do. So this was a vindication of sorts, especially after what happened (in 2020) with COVID (Gibb had clinched berths in the PGA’s John Deere Classic and Senior Championship, but both events were called off).

“I’ll always know I got into this one based on my performance (in real time), rather than a technicality.”

An eagle at the second hole got the ball rolling early for Gibb. Only Gibb, Herron and Smith managed to break par in regulation stroke play.

“We had electronic scoring, so I knew where I stood (down the stretch on the back nine),” said Gibb, a six-time Iowa PGA Section Player of the Year. “I had great birdie tries at 17 and 18 (that would have won it), but they just didn’t go in. So we reset (in the playoff), and I was ready.

“I didn’t care that I was going against two Tour regulars. I didn’t care about their (career earnings) or anything else. I just wanted to beat them. I felt like this was my spot.”

Gibb now joins fellow local golf legend and Iowa Golf Association Hall of Famer Dave Sergeant as a U.S. Senior Open qualifier. Sergeant made the field in 1998 and 2003.

“I’ve done some things I’m really proud of in my career, but joining my good friend Dave on that list ranks right up there, given the admiration and respect I’ve always had for him,” Gibb said. “I love Fort Dodge. I love representing Fort Dodge golf, and the history of the sport in our community. To be able add to that (on Wednesday)…I’m on cloud nine. I couldn’t be happier.

“I get chills when I hear, ‘on the first tee: Judd Gibb from Fort Dodge, Iowa. I’ve always treasured that. This was a day and a moment I’ll cherish forever.”

Gibb’s first message after clinching the bid was to his son, Andrew.

“We had a lot of plans (in 2020) that didn’t work out (due to the pandemic),” Gibb said. “I hope he can make the trip to Omaha and caddie for me (in July), because I feel like this is our second chance at a new adventure together.”

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