James Walker Wins 2008 APA National Championship
19 September 2008 - Richmond, VA - VCU sophomore James Walker captured the 2008 APA National Championship at the historic Richmond, VA Putt-Putt Fun Center with a two-day, 144-hole total of 203. Walker made full use of his extensive pre-tournament preparation on his home course to fire rounds of 23, 23, 26, 22, 26, 29, 26, and 28 and notch the first National amateur title of his young career. 2003 APA National Champion Bonnie White's valiant final-round clubhouse charge fell two strokes short of success, as she settled for runner-up honors at 205. Recently-crowned ProPutters.com Classic APA Champion Larry Smith recorded a brilliant second-day 98 to move into a tie for third position with Richmond, VA local standout Malcolm Shumaker at 206. Amateur veteran Chuck Dibbs shot 73 for the final 54 holes of the event to climb up the final leader board into fifth position at 208.
Action commenced with Walker and White taking 18-hole co-leadership at 23. Dibbs, 2005 APA National Champion Walter Kizzie, and 2007 Northern Open APA Champion Ken Stanfill lurked two strokes behind the early lead, in a three-way third-place tie at 25.
By virtue of a course record-tying round of 20 on course # 2, Shumaker pole-vaulted into a tie for the second-round lead with Walker after two rounds at 46. White hovered in third place at 48. At 49, Dibbs held fourth position. Stanfill stood alone in fifth place at 50.
Walker and Shumaker posted matching third-round 26's to open a bit of breathing room between themselves and the rest of the amateur field. The duo remained tied for the lead after 54 holes at 72. White maintained third position at 76. At 77, the Tidewater tandem of Dibbs and Mike Matthews shared fourth place.
With a spectacular fourth-round 22, Walker finished off a stellar first day and seized a three-stroke lead at 94 at the tournament's halfway mark. Shumaker dropped into second place at 97 but stayed well within striking distance. At 101, White completed the first day of play in third position. Matthews held fourth place at 103. Richmond, VA local amateur stalwart Amy Smith and 2007 National Doubles APA Champion Mickey DeLucca each carded a fourth-round 24 to leapfrog into a tie for fifth at 105.
Second-day play began with Walker extending his lead to six strokes at 120 after a fifth-round 26. Despite carding 29, Shumaker remained in second place at 126. At 130, White held onto third place. Matthews and DeLucca closed the gap on White as they completed the fifth round tied for fourth position at 131.
Walker's lead became a bit more vulnerable after six rounds, as he struggled to a sixth-round 29 on course # 3. At 149, however, Walker still enjoyed a four-stroke advantage on the field. White made the biggest move of the sixth round, posting a brilliant 23 to jump into a second-place tie with Shumaker at 153. At 158, Matthews and DeLucca continued to share fourth position.
Amidst increasingly challenging early afternoon winds, Walker mustered a solid seventh-round 26 to increase his lead to six strokes at 175 with one round remaining. White and Shumaker managed 28's in the trying conditions to remain tied for second place at 181. With a stellar seventh-round 24, Dibbs charged into a fourth-place tie with DeLucca at 184.
Walker's march to victory became surprisingly exciting as the final round progressed. After parring the first hole, Walker suffered an untimely bogey on the fickle second hole. White took full advantage of the opening, acing the round's first two holes to cut Walker's lead to just three strokes. The duo matched cards on each of the next four holes and at the turn, Walker had built his lead back up to four strokes. After Walker strategically laid up the dangerous 13th hole for a tap-in deuce, White made a critical hole-in-one to cut the lead once again to three. Still three strokes down on the 16th tee, White made another clutch ace, and when Walker followed with a deuce, his lead was cut to just two strokes. The drama heightened further when White aced the mercurial 17th hole. Walker made par and White stepped to the 18th tee with the momentum and down only a single stroke. White narrowly missed here ace effort on the 18th hole, however, and Walker need only a deuce to take the title. Prudently, Walker attempted to lay up the 18th hole for a tap-in deuce. However, with adrenaline flowing mightily, Walker struck his lay-up effort much too hard. Fortunately for him, the PPA Gods were smiling on Walker on this day, as his rapidly-moving ball caught the cup, popped up into the air, and disappeared into the cup for an ace. With that fortuitous ace, Walker secured a two-stroke victory.
Walker completed the 144-hole event at 203 to earn his first career National amateur title. White notched runner-up honors at 205. Tying for third place at 206 were Shumaker and Larry Smith, who crafted a brilliant final-round 20. Dibbs finished the tournament strongly to capture fifth place at 208. With an eighth-round 24, Amy Smith moved into sixth place at 211. Matthews and DeLucca shared seventh position at 214. At 216, 2006 APA Senior National Champion Michael Foster finished in ninth place. Kizzie rounded out the top ten amateur finishers at 217. After a lengthy hiatus from the sport, devout Denver Broncos fan Oniel Mercure demonstrated his commitment to excellence by completing the tournament in eleventh place at 218 and earning the last amateur division expense reimbursement spot. The APA National Championship tournament concluded the 2008 APA National Tour schedule.
Article provided by Brad Lebo