Paul Shadle hit the golf shot of his life on Sunday, and with it won a $100,000 prize package and made history at Venture Bank Minnesota Golf Show.
The crowd at the Minneapolis Convention Center erupted when Shadle's putt traveled 125 feet along a bumpy carpeted runway, climbed a 4-foot elevated green and rolled into the hole. That had never happened in the 28 years that the contest has been part of the annual midwinter show.
"I could not do that again," said Shadle, 49, of Rosemount. "I'm not a great golfer. I'm a weekend golfer and don't make 100-foot putts on a regular basis."
On Sunday Shadle was the only one of 30 contestants to make two putts from a shorter distance to qualify for the opportunity to go for the grand prize. When he stepped to the tee box with the chance to win $25,000 and a brand-new pontoon boat valued at $75,000, Shadle said he closed his eyes and took a swing.
"I thought, 'Just get the ball there; don't leave it short,' " he said in a phone interview Monday. "I was more nervous about the short putts than the long one. With a couple hundred watching, I didn't want to shank it."
Hardly. At first Shadle thought he had hit it too hard. Then he didn't think it would get up the hill. But the ball kept rolling, and then it was, "Oh my God." The crowd roared as the ball dropped in. "I think I had a mini-blackout. I didn't hear any of that," he said.
Nobody had ever come close to winning before, said Golf Show owner Kevin Kulas. The closest anybody can recall is one contestant who came within 2 to 3 feet.
"It's pretty amazing," Kulas said. "It's not just about alignment. It's all about speed. If you hit it too hard, it ricochets off the pin. If you hit it too slow, it won't make it up the incline to the hole."
Nearly 1,300 golfers paid $5 for three tries at making a putt from 75 feet. About 30 did and were invited back for Sunday's putt-off. Shadle advanced to the final.
Shadle, who is a corporate pilot, said the South Bay Pontoon boat and cash courtesy of Nelson Marine comes just in time. His old pontoon boat quit on him last year and had to be towed in a few times. Now he just has to decide what color he wants his new boat to be.
First Tee Foundation was also a winner Sunday. A portion of the proceeds from the $100,000 Pontoon Putt contest will go to the nonprofit youth development organization, Kulas said.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768