Greg Ward Opens 2007 Season with
Playoff Victory over Brad Lebo
24 March 2007 - Burlington, NC - The Southern Putting Tour began its second season of pure competition this past weekend in Burlington and one of the best turnouts for a season opener was in store. On a rare summer-like late March afternoon, a field of 39, with a majority of the players teeing it up for the first time since the fall, returned to the famed and picturesque Burlington course to get the season off to a great start. The first three-some on the scoreboard featured reigning Player of the Year Rick Culverhouse, teeing it up with the Southern Tour champion Vince Batten, and 2006 PPA National Champion Brad Lebo. All three began play with aces on the first hole and the season was off and running. Thirty minutes later, the field of 39 was on the course in hopes of winning the first event of the season.
2007 Burlington Open Champion
Lebo had a torrid start to the day with an opening round of 23, and was good enough to lead by two strokes over Ray Guthrie. There was a five-way log-jam in a tie for third at 26, including former National Champion Greg Ward, reigning Southern Tour Match Play Champion Ricky Schults, Rick Baird, Dan Anders, and Bill Baus.
Lebo continued his brilliant play into the second round, but stumbled after he made the first two holes. Lebo hit one of the obstacles on hole three and put him in a position for an improbable deuce putt, in which he did not succeed. After the bogey, he went on to make nine of the final 14 holes to end the round at 26 and sat in the clubhouse with the two-round lead at 49. Baird capitalized on Lebo's mishaps when he fired a solid round of 23 to move into a tie for the lead with Lebo. Ward bettered his opening round by two strokes to move to within one stroke of the leaders. The nearest to any of them was at 53 and seemingly out of contention.
That would be because Ward and Lebo were putting on an aces clinic in the final round. Lebo shot a final round 23 to finish at 72 and seemingly had his first career in Burlington all sewn up. But Ward was chasing late and had caught Lebo with one hole to play. Needing to ace 18 for a round of 21 and the victory, Ward lipped out his tee shot and finished at 72, setting up a playoff to kick off the season for the second consecutive season.
Baird managed to finish in third by himself at 76. There was a seven-way tie for fourth at 81. Of those were Schults, Russell Sigmon, Jr., Greg Newport, Bill Kirby, newcomer Caleb Kennedy, Robert Johnson, and Randal Smith.
In the playoff, Ward and Lebo traded aces down the stretch. Both missed their tee shots when they needed it the most. Ward hit a firm putt on 17 that did not kick to the hole, and Lebo responded with one that went just past the hole on the left. Both misfired on 18. Ward caught the right lip on his tee shot, and Lebo did not come within reach of the hole after missing it six inches right.
Sudden death was in order. Both made the first hole, forcing the playoff to continue. Ward made his tee shot on hole 2, and Lebo missed the line to the right causing the ball to roll over the topside of the hole along the hill at the back rail. As a result, Ward won the tournament and posted his fourth career tournament victory on the Southern Putting Tour.
The Southern Putting Tour will continue play this Sunday on Course 1 at 10:00 a.m. for the 13th annual Howard Loy Memorial.
Article and scores provided by Opie Roberts and the PPA Southern Putting Tour.