Ray Browning Wins
1975 National Championship

By: Bill Kirby, The Fayetteville Times

22 June 1975 - Columbus, OH (PPA Course) - Ray Browning, in the summer of 1967, participated in his first competitive tournament in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. He lost to the eventual winner - an 11-year-old fifth grade student - by 22 strokes.

Today, Browning reigns as the National Champion of the Professional Putters Association succeeding two-time champion Robert Smith who defended his title for only nine holes of the 144-hole event held here June 21 and 22, 1975.

The 26-year-old Certified Public Accountant, overcame a three stroke deficit in the final round and edged Eddie Turner, Orlando, FL, by a single shot for the most prestigious in the 22-year old sport.

Browning, now a resident of Euclid, Ohio, fashioned a 197, 91-under par narrowly missing the national record for eight rounds of competition by four strokes. Daryl Freeman of Bristol, Tennessee, the 1973 National Champion, set the record with his triumph in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The victory was worth $2,000 to Browning bolstering his lifetime earnings to just under $14,400 after six years on the PPA summer circuit. Turner, the leader entering the final round, collected $1,250. Charles Connor, Jr., Asheville, NC, Steve Lyon, Greensboro, NC, and Mark Grothier, Haughton, LA, tied for third at 203. Each won $816.16.

Browning, Turner, Connor, Lyon, and Grothier all qualified for the 1976 World Putting Championship along with the remaining top ten finishers; Gary English, Orlando, FL, Jimmy Harritos, Dothan, AL, Rob Ludgin, Indianapolis, IN, Gerald Knott, Dallas, TX, and Joe Marazzito, Orlando, FL.

Browning and Turner shared the first-day lead after five rounds with identical 122's, 58-under par. Turner pulled away in the first of Sunday's final three rounds with an opening 26, 10-under par while Browning could do no better than 31.

"I thought after the 31 that it was all over," said Browning, "but I was still clinging to the hope that there might be a slim chance of catching Turner. We played the sixth round on Course No. 2 and most of the holes play well. When I missed simple holes like Nos. 9, 10 and 11 it shook my confidence."

Turner's five stroke lead was cut to three after the seventh round when Browning fired a 22 with holes-in-one on Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17. Browning, a fourth place finisher in the 1970 and 1974 National Championships, knocked in seven of his first nine holes drawing event with Turner at the turn of the final round. Aces at Nos. 10 and 11 gave the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Browning a two-stroke advantage. Turned, gambling at the treacherous 14th, trimmed the margin to one with an ace but Browning rammed in holes-in-one on Nos. 15, 16, and 17 protecting his lead. Turner, a member of the Pros Players Committee, matched Browning's effort.

Browning stood at the final hole 91-under; Turner - at the same hole - 90-under.

Browning, playing safe, left his 30-foot ace attempt five-feet short, settled for par and left Turner with a final opportunity to salvage a tie. Turner's last grasp at the national title ended when his putt slid by one inch to the left of the cup at the elevated green.

"Of course I was aware that I could lock it up with a hole-in-one on the 18th," Browning stated. "I didn't want to get into any trouble though, so I lagged my first shot as close to the hole as possible. When Turner came up to the hole I just turned my back and decided not to watch. The way the spectators were hollering when he putted made me think there was going to be a playoff. I'm glad we didn't have to play any more," Browning chuckled, "because my playoff record isn't too good."

"Luckily," said Browning, "I did what I was supposed to do to win but I feel for Eddie. I've been close before and lost so I know what he must have felt. He played super and I'm sorry to see someone like him lose but he'll be back."

"When I first began playing this game, I thought it was for kids. Now I'm convinced it's a game of precision and skill. After that kid beat me by 22 strokes when I played in my first tournament, I've been striving for something like this. People in Euclid have been just great since I won. Especially my co-workers. They always knew I played the game seriously. Now, they're beginning to take it seriously."

"My personal goal is to do well in the World Putting Championship next year and try to repeat as the National Champion. I won $2,000 in the World Championship this year but I never was really satisfied with my play. The $2,000 I got from the World will go toward paying some bills and the rest I'll spend on things around the house and plans for a vacation."

Only five of the previous 13 living former National Champions competed in the $10,000 event staged at the Professional Putters Association Georgesville Road layout. They were: Daryl Freeman (1973), Bob Williamson (1964), Vance Randall (1967 and 1969), Tony Cross (1970), and Robert Smith (1972 and 1974). Freeman and Smith led the contingent at 77-under par tying for 12th place.

Smith, Dallas, Texas, was banished from play after completing only nine holes. He arrived 12 minutes tardy for his scheduled tee time Saturday. After consultation and recommendation from Pro Player Committee members, PPA President David Lloyd informed Smith of his disqualification.

"It hurt Robert very much," Lloyd later stated, "but it was the only fair thing to do. He told me three days before the tournament that he wanted to be the first man to win the National Championship three times. He did, however, accept the decision gratefully and we allowed him to compete although he was ineligible for the title or the prize money. He never said anything against the ruling and we're naturally quite proud to have that kind of man in our organization.

Browning, who recorded no bogeys during the duration of the event, foresees no major changes in his game for the remainder of the season.

"There really won't be a momentum carryover just because I've won the Nationals. I'll practice about the same amount of time as usual, working or regular shots and hitting about 100 practice balls on the really difficult holes. There's going to be some added pressure of being the National Champion. I'm sure the rest of the players will be out to beat me, but that's what the game's all about."

Professional Division

RoundPrize
PlayerCity12345678TotalMoney
1Ray BrowningEuclid, OH2323242626312222197$ 2,000.00
2Eddie TurnerOrlando, FL2523222626262426198$ 1,250.00
3Charles Connor, Jr.Asheville, NC2428262227272623203$ 816.66
Steve LyonGreensboro, NC3021232528262426203$ 816.66
Mark GrothierHaughton, LA2624282425252328203$ 816.66
6Gary EnglishOrlando, FL2925252627262224204$ 600.00
7Jimmy HarritosDothan, AL2425272525282327205$ 475.00
Rob LudginIndianapolis, IN2229262627282522205$ 475.00
9Gerald KnottDallas, TX2928262525232229207$ 400.00
10Bill Kirby, Jr.Fayetteville, NC2824272725222829210$ 325.00
Joe MarazzitoOrlando, FL2822242528282827210$ 325.00
12Daryl FreemanBristol, TN2829292629242422211$ 155.00
Fred ScottBristol, TN2828252527282426211$ 155.00
Greg RobertsHouston, TX2730232726272724211$ 155.00
Dave RobertsBaltimore, MD3126282423282625211$ 155.00
John ConnorGreenville, SC2526282326263225211$ 155.00
17John KesslerBaltimore, MD2828252629252923213$ 75.00
Kevin HoytFt. Collins, CO2727222827312526213$ 75.00
Jeff KeskinMetairie, LA2924262528242433213$ 75.00
20Roy ZernerBaltimore, MD2826263127242626214$ 55.55
Mike BaldozaDallas, TX3028262826242527214$ 55.55
Buddy TaylorSevern, MD2826252630262627214$ 55.55
David GraffeAuburn, WA2826272529222928214$ 55.55
Charles GieblerHays, KS3027242625242830214$ 55.55
Duane HilbersOmaha, NE2828262525282430214$ 55.55
John RankinWinter Park, FL2829252626272627214$ 55.55
Dan AndersSt. Petersburg, FL2727242429282728214$ 55.55
Randy OrrChattanooga, TN2628232328302729214$ 55.55

 

Duke Wellman Wins 1975 Amateur National Championship

By: Bill Kirby, The Fayetteville Times

22 June 1975 - Columbus, OH (PPA Course) - Duke Wellman approached the final hole of the 1975 National Amateur Championship with a two-stroke lead over Doug Spring of Seattle, Washington and fast-closing Shawn Jones of Durham, NC. Wellman, of Gastonia, NC, left his hole-in-one attempt on the double-elevated green short  and watched in dismay as his ball rolled back to the tee.

His fear of allowing the most prestigious title in the Amateur Putters Association slip away was short lived however, as he rolled in his 30-footer for par and the victory.

"I don't know how that last putt went in there at the 18th," a subdued Wellman told The Professional Putters Association's president, David Lloyd, afterwards. "Somebody up there was looking after me," Wellman finished the 144-hole marathon at 207, 81-under par. Jones, a former professional who sat out the season prior, while regaining amateur status, and Spring tied at 209.

Tony Mustacchio, a local master of the Georgesville Road layout, was alone in fourth at 210. Joe Baker, of Fort Worth, TX, and Bryan Boyd, of Bristol, TN, shared fourth at 214.

The event was held in conjunction with the PPA National Championship June 21st and 22nd, 1975.

"I've got to be frank with everyone about this," said Wellman, a protégé of former amateur star Bill Stowe. "I never thought this could happen to me. I've played a lot of years on the amateur tour and thought about winning the national title. Now, it's a reality. This could be the greatest moment in my life. I'm going to relive it for quite a while."

For Spring, it was yet another day of frustration. Only four days earlier the lanky shot maker had lost out in the finals of the World Amateur Championship to Quincy Scarborough of Fayetteville, NC. "Of course, it would have been nice to win the Nationals," stated Spring. "It would have eased the pain of the "World" loss. I'm still happy to have done this well in both major tournaments."

"I thought there might be some hope of at least finishing in a tie with Duke when he left his first putt short at the 18th," he continued. "But when he knocked it in and to tell the truth, I'm glad he did. I would have hated to see him lose it like that. Even if it meant my winning."

 

 

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