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Alarms, planes and a fairy-tale golf story that ended one shot from reality

PALM HARBOR — Truth be told, the joyous leap was a bit underwhelming considering the moment. Her husband, Adam Schenk, had just dropped a 71-foot putt to regain the lead in the Valspar Championship on Sunday, prompting Kourtney Schenk to jump about 3 inches high. Maybe 4.

Of course, in her defense, Kourtney’s alarm had gone off at 2 a.m. about 1,000 miles away Sunday morning.

And she had already walked 12 holes at the Innisbrook Resort.

And she is eight months pregnant.

Sometimes, we forget there is more to an athlete’s world than adoring crowds and fat paychecks. In this case, there is a golfer who has been travelling from one side of the country to the other, week after week, for more than two months to get in as many tournaments as possible before taking some time off for his son’s birth.

The golf courses, ballparks and arenas are filled with guys like Adam Schenk. A softspoken 31-year-old son of farmers who has been grinding on the PGA Tour for six years without ever finishing a tournament on top of the leaderboard.

We cheer for the superstars and hope for memorable moments, but the best stories are usually the ones we never saw coming. Like a guy who hadn’t finished in the top 10 in his last 27 tournaments finding himself in the final pairing with Jordan Spieth on the same weekend that his wife stayed home to work on decorating the nursery.

So was this good timing, or horrible luck?

“I think it’s pretty perfect,” said Kourtney, while watching Adam on the green at No. 13. “You never know what next week is going to look like, so you never complain about being in contention.”

Once Adam got off to a good start on Thursday, they had talked about the possibility of Kourtney catching a flight if he was still in contention on the weekend. When he birdied No. 18 on Saturday for the 54-hole lead, Kourtney’s travel plans went into hyper speed.

Her flight was at 5:30 a.m. out of Indianapolis, which is a 90-minute drive from their Vincennes, Indiana, home. She got to Adam’s Airbnb about a half-hour after he woke up, and he had breakfast waiting for her. Kourtney took a quick nap and was at the course for his 1:40 p.m. tee time.

Schenk chipped in for a birdie on the first hole and had a two-stroke lead for the next hour or so. Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood caught up to him at No. 6 and Spieth briefly took the lead at No. 8, but Schenk came back with a birdie on the next hole.

By the time, No. 18 rolled around Schenk was tied for the lead at 10 under with Taylor Moore, who was already in the clubhouse. Schenk’s drive at 18 went horribly awry and left him shooting left-handed out of the gallery with no chance of getting near the green.

“My worst drive of the week,” Schenk said later. “Bad time for it to happen.”

Schenk ended up with about a 40-foot putt for a potential playoff with Moore. The shot was on target, but he hit a little hard and it skipped across the cup. Kourtney was standing just off the green and spun in a circle with her hand on her heart when the ball failed to drop.

“I held my breath the whole time,” she said. “I had a million thoughts going through my head.”

Adam would later say it stunk to get that close and fail to close the deal, but Kourtney had a different perspective on the first runnerup finish of his career.

“He’s kept his (PGA Tour) card six straight years, which is a feat in itself,” Kourtney said. “He hasn’t won, but he’s been super consistent. So, yes, the next step is getting a win, but I also think we’re really lucky. He’s playing golf for a living, and he does it well. What do we have to complain about?”

With Adam doing post-round interviews and Spieth chasing his toddler around nearby, I asked Kourtney how she would describe this weekend to her child 10 years from now.

“Oh my gosh, it was a whirlwind for sure,” she said. “But I’m sure he’ll think his dad was pretty cool for getting through this weekend.”

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.