RENO — The Barracuda Championship will always have a special place in Greg Chalmers’ heart, and with good reason.
It was his first championship on the PGA Tour after 386 career starts, one of the longest droughts in history, and he won it in dramatic fashion.
Chalmers and Gary Woodland were tied going into the last hole. Woodland, the 2013 Barracuda champ, bogeyed the par-5 18th, and Chalmers recorded an eagle and a six-point victory, giving him an automatic two-year exemption.
The 43-year-old Chalmers was in Reno on Tuesday afternoon to promote the tournament, which runs Aug. 3-6 at Montreux Golf & Country Club, and he was excited about defending his title.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Chalmers said. “Obviously I’ve never defended before (on the PGA Tour). It doesn’t matter to anybody except the person defending. I’ll probably put more pressure on myself, but I’m excited about the opportunity to do that. I’d like to put up a strong defense and play well.
“I was playing OK before the tournament and then things changed. Sometimes golf is like that, and you catch fire.”
Unfortunately, Chalmers has been ice cold this year. He placed 17th at the Bay Hill Invitational earlier this year with a 3-under-par 285. He missed the cut six of the next seven tournaments, and he’s changed coaches about a month ago. He’s now using Bradley Hughes, a former PGA Tour player.
Chalmers had his second-best finish of the season, tying for 25th at last week’s John Deere Classic, posting four scores in the 60s (69, 68, 69, 67) for the first time this season.
“I started seeing a different coach about a month ago,” Chalmers said. “We’ve been working on impact position. The club was “stuck” behind me and I was hitting big hooks. The effect it (new coach) had on my golf swing is amazing.
“I played nicely; really well. I didn’t get the best out of it. The season hasn’t been the greatest. This is the first time I’ve had any kind of job security, and even though I’ve sucked I get to come back and play next year.”
Chalmers has also been battling back issues.
“Some of it is health related. I have arthritis in my spine,” Chalmers said. “I’m dealing with that. It hasn’t been enjoyable trying to get that sorted out. It doesn’t matter until I play golf. It doesn’t hurt just walking around. The doctors think they can do something else to give me a couple of years of extra comfort.
“Then, my swing deteriorated, and it wasn’t where it needed to be. It’s not bad enough were you have to re-build the arc, but bad enough you can’t compete. I’m really excited how last week went and what’s in front of me. If I make the playoffs, great. If not, I have six weeks to treat it like training camp and get ready for next season.”
That was the beauty of winning in Reno last year. It took some pressure off.
“It’s meant the world to me,” Chalmers said. “I was telling somebody earlier that I went on a family vacation to Italy, and I haven’t been on a family vacation for five or six years. My family would always go and I’d be playing golf. We got to do that even though I have not performed like I wanted to. I know the pressure was taken off by the exemption.”
The win earned Chalmers a spot in last year’s British Open, and all of the majors this year.
“It was phenomenal,” Chalmers said. “It was last minute obviously. My parents came and my in-laws came. I shot an 85 in the final round and finished last.
“It’s just cool. You are wallowing away on the Web.com Tour and then to play in majors is quite mind blowing.”
Chalmers said he likes how Montreux fits his game.
“I like fast greens. I putt well on fast greens,” Chalmers said. “My birdie average is high, so the system suits me. The fairways are wide which is good because I’m not the most accurate guy.
“Length is negated because of the altitude. You don’t have to hit driver on all holes. The fairways are decent width. If you miss the fairway it’s really nasty. This is a good test of golf. My peers love this course.”
Another reason, more personal to Chalmers, was his Maximum Chances charity was the recipient of $62,500.
The charity is partially named after Chalmers’ oldest son, Max, who was discovered to have autism at 22 months. Max is 14 now.
Chalmers won $25,000 for the most points scored in four days on the par-5 18th, and half went to charity. Rhein Gibson won $100,000 for the first double-eagle, and $50,000 went to charity.
It turned out Gibson had no plans for his charity money, and Cameron Percy suggested Chalmers’ foundation. It turned out Gibson had a friend whose child was autistic. The money has been used to help Maximum Chances.
Obviously it was a tough day when Chalmers found out from his wife Max was autistic.
“I was on the road, and my son wasn’t progressing,” Chalmers said. “My wife (Nicole) called and told me he might have autism.
“Other friends said they saw signs that weren’t normal. There were a lot of years that were very challenging. We were very lucky as I look back. A lot of stuff we tried worked and helped him. Right now he is just quirky.”