Burton, Two-Time National Champion
Orlando, FL - Lewis Burton of Lawrenceville, GA, knocked in a 30-foot ace on the final hole of an 18-hole playoff Saturday, September 19, to win his second PPA National Championship. The 33-year-old pro came from two strokes behind with three holes remaining to overcome Jeff Smith of Dallas, TX, and claim the $3,500 prize and become only the fourth player in history to become a two-time National Champion. "You just never know if you are going to win again," said Burton, the son of a Georgia State Senator. "I'm speechless, which doesn't say much when your father is a politician. I started the day eight strokes back and I just played the best I could."
Burton and Smith had tied the 144-hole regulation tournament at 204, 84 under par for eight rounds at the Putt-Putt Golf Course situated in the heart of scenic Orange Lake Resort & Country Club resulting in Saturday's 18-hole playoff for the championship. Smith held a two-stroke lead with three holes left in the playoff, but ran afoul when he scored a bogey three on the 16th hole. Burton pared the 16th, then gained a tie when he rammed in a 26-foot hole-in-one at the 17th hole while Smith's effort missed to the left. Burton calmly sent the winning putt toward the hole at the 18th, the ball curling from left to right and into the hole, and then watched as Smith's effort to tie rolled to the lip of the hole before tailing off to the right. "I really thought Jeff would make that putt and we'd have to go to sudden-death," said Burton, who is sponsored by Woods & Gray apparel and has $45,000 in career earnings. "I had been making that putt at the 18th hole throughout the tournament," said Smith, a 38-year-old two-time Texas State Champion who won $2,000. "I just came up an inch short of being the best putter in the country."
Jay Klapper, a journeyman pro from Loganville, GA, finished third at 205, including a costly bogey at the 15th hole of the final round of tournament play, earning $1,500. "That hole will haunt me for a time to come," Klapper said. Greg Ward of Loganville, GA, Cliff Matthews of Hurst, TX, Rainey Statum of Kingwood, TX, Andy Coradini of Loganville, GA, and Danny McCaslin of Metairie, LA, shared fourth at 206 each earning $940.
Jeff Brown of North Olmsted, OH, claimed the Amateur Putters Association crown with a 216 total for a two-stroke victory over Jim Engel of Canfield, OH, and Jim Cruse of Baltimore, OH. "I've been trying to win this title for the last couple of years," Brown said Lee Ashley of Durham, NC, won the Novice Division title with a total of 256. Rodney Rogers of Dublin, OH, was second at 268.
The victory gave Burton his fifth major title in Profession Putters Association competition. Burton won his first PPA title in 1989. "I just thank the Lord and my family," Burton says. "I thank the Lord for giving me good health and I thank my wife and my parents for the support they have given me over the years I have played this game." Burton joins Vance Randall of Asheville, NC (1967 and 1969), Robert Smith of Dallas, TX (1972 and 1974), the late Ray Browning of Cleveland, OH (1975 and 1980), and Alan Quinnelly (1985 and 1991) as the only players to win two National Championships.