Greg Ward Wins
2001 PPA National Championship
12 August 2001 - Lynchburg, VA - Greg Ward finally has his PPA National Championship. He earned it on his own terms, scoring holes-in-one on 10 of his last 11 holes in the final round of the 42nd Annual $15,000 PPA National Championship at the Putt-Putt Golf & Games family entertainment center on Timberlake Road.
Greg Ward, winner of the 2001 PPA National Championship
"Winning the PPA National Championship means so much to me and it was great that my parents could be there to share the moment with me,'' said Ward, who recorded scores of 24-30-26-27-26-25-26-29-24-29-22-24 for a 312 total, 120-under par, for the three-day, 216-hole marathon that concluded on Aug. 12 in the Microwave-like Virginia heat where temperatures reached as high as 100 degrees.
Ward earned $2,500, bringing his PPA career prize money earnings to almost $115,000, while claiming his sixth PPA major crown, the second this season. He won the $10,000 PPA Southern Open in Martinez, Ga., in July. The 39-year-old is the all-time winningest player in PPA history with 135 PPA-sanctioned victories.
Ray Guthrie, runner-up in the 2001 PPA National Championship.
Ray Guthrie III, the 21-year-old from High Point, NC, was second at 316 and earned $1,200.
"I can't think of anyone better deserving to be the champion," Guthrie said. "Greg Ward may be one of the best champions the Professional Putters Association has ever seen. When I was battling Greg out there during the last day of the championship, I kept looking over to his scoreboard and saw those red numbers keep going up. I was like, 'This guy never stops acing.' I said. 'This guy is good.''
Randy Reeves, third in the 2001 PPA National Championship.
Mike Brown, T-4th in the 2001 PPA National Championship.
Kevin Lacey, T-4th in the 2001 PPA National Championship.
Randy Reeves of Montgomery, Ala., the 1997 PPA National Champion, was third at 319, winning $1,100. Mike Brown of Springfield, Pa., the 1996 PPA National Champion, and Kevin Lacey of Cincinnati, Ohio, shared fourth, both at 321 and earning $950 each. Rounding out the top 10 were Brad Lebo, a dentist from Shippensburg, Pa., 324; 1993 PPA National Champion Andy Coradini of Loganville, Ga., 326; Todd Fowler of Duncan, SC, 326; Rick Baird of Pineville, NC, 326; and Robb Titchell of Columbus, Ohio, the 1999 and 1997 APA National Champion, 328.
Don Ferrell of Columbus, Ohio became the oldest man in history to claim the APA National Champion.
"Of my three national championships, this one is probably the most special because of my age," the 67-year-old said. Ferrell recorded rounds of 27-31-29-30-28-26-30-30 for a 231 total, 57-under par, in the 8-round Amateur Putters Association championship that concluded on Aug. 11. Steven Jones of Richmond, Va., was second at 233 and former APA National Champion Jeff Brown of North Olmstead, Ohio third at 234. Ferrell's other two APA National Championships were won in 1986 and 1979.
Still, "PPA National Championship Week" belonged to Ward, who won the $2000 PPA Hall of Fame Classic on Aug. 6 and was voted "PPA Putter of Decade" for the 1990s at the PPA National Championship banquet on Aug. 9. As Ward headed toward victory with holes-in-one on the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes, 1973 PPA National Champion Daryl Freeman watched in amazement. "Greg Ward is the best I have ever seen,'' he said. "Better than Neil Connor. Better than Ricky Smith. He definitely deserves to be in the PPA Hall of Fame."
Ward's miss at the 15th hole was insignificant. He aced the 16th and 17th holes and then stood at the 18th tee for his final ace. As his golf ball rolled hard into the cup, Ward's father broke from the gallery to embrace his son in his triumphant moment. His mother wasn't far behind.
"My father had his own scorecard and he was keeping track of what I was scoring on every hole throughout the tournament," Ward said. "When I would lip out of a hole I would look up at the clubhouse and see dad in agony over the close miss, and when I got hot and I made a string of aces he would be about to explode with excitement. "When I made the last hole, there were a lot of hugs and handshakes from my parents and fellow competitors. That was a very emotional moment and I will never forget that day as long as I live. I have won a lot of tournaments in my career, but I would have to say that this was the most special victory of them all."
Gary English of Atlanta, Ga., a longtime friend, wept as ward realized his PPA career dream, one that had eluded him for the past decade.
"I couldn't have been happier for anyone than I was for Greg,'' said Lewis Burton, the 1989 and 1998 PPA National Champion from Lawrenceville, Ga. "It was emotional when Bill Kirby won in 1995 in Ypsilanti, Mich., and this was just as emotional for me to see Greg finally win.''
Bill Baus, 2001 PPA Senior National Champion.
Bill Baus of Cleveland, Ohio, who won the PPA National Seniors Championship earlier in the week, called Ward's play in the final two rounds spectacular.
"Greg Ward simply topped off what is an extraordinary career,'' said Baus, who joined the PPA in the 1960s and was runner-up to Tony Cross in the 1970 PPA National Championship in Louisville, Ky. "Greg is certainly the best closer I have ever seen, and is undoubtedly the finest putter to ever play our sport."
Bryan Boyd, 1992 PPA National Champion.
Bryan Boyd, the 1992 PPA National Champion from Bristol, Tenn., was at the 18th hole of Course No. 1 as Ward was swarmed by fellow players.
"My eyes welled with tears as he made the final shot and was instantly embraced by his father and mother," Boyd said. "I can honestly say that I could not have been happier if I had won it myself. Greg already is our greatest champion, and now he has our greatest title. He will represent the PPA and Putt-Putt Golf Courses of America with great honor and dignity. It was a fitting end to a rebirth season for the PPA. And when Bill Kirby paraphrased Putt-Putt Golf founder, the late Don Clayton, telling Greg that 'God smiled on you today,' he could just as easily have said 'God smiled on all of us today, this week, and this year.' I am so excited about the future of the PPA and Putt-Putt Golf. The sky is the limit, and we have a few friends up there to show us the way."
Jeff Brown, 1998 APA National Champion.
Jeff Brown of Columbus, Ohio, 1998 APA National Amateur Champion, joined in the accolades for Ward.
"His PPA National Championship was certainly long overdue, and well deserved," Brown said. "It was nice to see Greg win the only title that had escaped him, and verifies him as the best putter in the game today."
"Even more exciting to me as an amateur was witnessing Don Ferrell, at age 67, winning his third national championship. To have won three nationals over a period of four decades is an absolutely incredible feat. I have to wonder if anyone has ever accomplished such a feat in any other sport. It was a thrill to be a part of that. "My hat is off to probably the best run nationals week that I've attended, and I've played every nationals since 1986," Brown said. "Joe Aboid has the best maintained course that we play, and everything was done with the players in mind. Overall, a great week for putting."
Ward, known as much for sportsmanship and modesty as his playing skills, said he is moved by the comments of some of the game's greats.
"I was really touched by some of the comments that were made by some of the all-time great players in our game - Daryl Freeman, Vance Randall and Buddy Taylor," he said. "For them to say that I am the best player in the history of the game means so much to me. I do not even know what to say. I am truly honored to be mentioned in the same sentence with some of the great players that we have had in our sport's history.
"I know that a lot of players strive to win that one big tournament that they have never won, and then they retire from the game once they win that tournament," he said. " Not me. I love the game and I love the people that play the game. I will be out there again next year trying to win every time I tee it up. I am sure I will not win every tournament, but I sure will have fun trying."
Bill Kirby Jr., PPA executive director, called "PPA National Championship Week" and the 2001 PPA season rewarding for the Professional Putters Association.
"We not only have a great champion in Greg Ward, we have an even greater role model," he said. "We are proud of all of our champions, and we are equally proud of our membership. I think back on the week with much pride in our players. Ken Hastings, although he lost to Vince Batten in our televised PPA proputters.com National Match Play Championship, was so gracious in defeat. It was moving to all of us to see Bill Baus win the PPA National Seniors Championship, particularly knowing that he lost his mother less than two weeks before. It was tender to see Dan Switzer, owner of our Putt-Putt Golf & Games franchise in Springfield, Ohio, weep after winning his first Junior Putters of America Championship after 20 seasons of trying. We are proud of the Springfield team and we are proud of Bennie Williams, our JPA National Champion."
"We are grateful to Putt-Putt Courses of America, Trish Clayton, David Callahan and Brian Smith of the Putt-Putt National Board of Directors for believing in our membership and giving us an opportunity. We are grateful to franchise owners such as Joe and Terri Aboid, Bill Chrysan, Dan Switzer, Mark and Liz Ross, Bobby Gilmore and Brian Patterson, and so many more who opened their courses and allowed us venues to stage our events. Without these people, particularly the franchise owners, there is no PPA. And We are appreciative to our 2001 PPA National Players Board of Advisors, particularly Rick Baird, Andy Coradini and Peter Neumann."
"We had phenomenal media coverage - from Sports Illustrated to Fox News to USA Today to USA Today Live - and we cannot thank them enough for taking an interest in our sport."
"And, I can never say enough about our players," Kirby said. "They are the heart of our organization - men and women who are passionate about this game and this sport. We developed a season with them in mind. We were committed to earning their confidence and their trust. I hope, and I believe, that we did. Now it is time to build on what we have enjoyed this season. We are committed to formulating a better 2002 PPA. We are committed to building a better 2002 Junior Putters of America program. We will announce a 2002 PPA National Players Advisory Board with some new faces. Not that we are not grateful to those who served this season, but to give some of them a rest so that they can concentrate on their own games for 2002. We will look to develop our PPA National Seniors Championship and our PPA National Doubles Championship. And we will be looking to recruit players from the past as well as future pros and amateurs. It was a grand week, a great season. But there is work to do."
Leaders of 2001 PPA National Championship by Round
|1st Round Leaders||Dave Taylor, Mark Hasty and Bryan Boyd||23 (13-under par)|
|2nd Round Leaders||Kevin Garrett, Vince Batten, Lewis Burton, Rich Gillooly, and Bill Baus||51 (21-under par)|
|3rd Round Leaders||Vince Batten and Kevin Lacey||76 (32-under par)|
|4th Round Leader||Kevin Lacey||101 (43-under par)|
|5th Round Leader||Kevin Lacey||129 (51-under par)|
|6th Round Leaders||Vince Batten, Randy Reeves, Greg Ward and Ray Guthrie||158 (58-under par)|
|7th Round Leader||Mike Brown||181 (71-under par)|
|8th Round Leader||Mike Brown||212 (76-under par)|
|9th Round Leader||Ray Guthrie||236 (88-under par)|
|10th Round Leader||Ray Guthrie||263 (97-under par)|
|11th Round Leaders||Ray Guthrie and Greg Ward||288 (108-under par)|