Greg Ward Captures 2008 PPA Southern Open Title
22 June 2008 - High Point, NC - On a sunny but breezy early summer day, a field of 54 professional and 30 amateur players contested the 2008 season's second PPA National Tour event, the 72-hole PPA Southern Open. PPA Hall of Fame member Greg Ward staged a brilliant final-round charge to capture his second-consecutive PPA National Tour title. Ward fired rounds of 22, 25, 27, and 23 for a 72-hole total of 97 and a one-stroke victory over tenacious local standout Randal Smith. Despite a solid final-round 24, Smith settled for runner-up honors at 98. Another High Point local stalwart, Greg Newport, shot 101 to tie for third place with 1997 PPA National Champion Randy Reeves at 101. Third-round co-leader Kevin Lacey struggled to a fourth-round 29 but held on to complete the tournament in fifth position at 102.
Action commenced with Ward seizing the opening-round lead with a magnificent round of 22. Hovering a stroke behind Ward in a second-place tie at 23 were Newport and two-time PPA National Doubles Champion Rick Rybaczek. Reeves and five-time Texas State Tour Champion Jeffrey Smith shared fourth position at 24.
Rybaczek carded a second-round 23 to leapfrog into a tie for the 36-hole lead with Ward at 47. Randal Smith and Lacey stormed into a third-place tie at 49 with respective second-round scores of 22 and 23. A six-way, fifth-place logjam at 51 included Reeves, 1997 Palmetto Classic Champion Allen Wall, 2007 North Carolina State Champion Jeff Carr, 2004 North Carolina State Champion Gary English, Jeffrey Smith, and 2005 PPA National Champion Jay Klapper.
The tournament leaders became even more tightly bunched after 54 holes of play. 2007 PPA Tournament Players Champion Vince Batten made the biggest move of the event's penultimate round, firing a tournament-low round of 21 to soar into a tie for the lead with Lacey at 73. Ward and Randal Smith lurked just a stroke off of the lead, deadlocked in third place at 74. Rybaczek stood alone in fifth position at 75. Grouped in a four-way, sixth-place tie at 76 were Newport, Reeves, Wall, and Carr.
The final round ultimately morphed into a two-player shootout between Ward and Randal Smith. Carding a blistering final-round 23, Ward prevailed by a single stroke with a 72-hole score of 97. The victory further padded Ward's storied career resume and as well gave him his second win in as many starts on the 2008 PPA National Tour schedule. Earlier in the season, Ward captured the 2008 PPA Western Open in Lake Charles, LA. Despite a strong final-round 24, Randal Smith was forced to settle for a second-place finish at 98. Newport and Reeves matched fourth-round 25's to move into a tie for third position at 101. Third-round co-leaders Lacey and Batten both endured disappointing final rounds. Lacey shot 29 to cling to a fifth-place finish at 102. With a last-round 34, Batten dropped into an eight-way tie for 16th place at 107, which also was the cash line for the 22 money spots awarded in the event.
In the amateur division, the tournament developed into a battle of local amateur talent, as five of the top six finishers were products of the High Point local weekly tournament program. Two-time APA National Doubles Champion Larry Hoover magically turned what began as a 2008 cameo appearance on the PPA Tour into his first individual National Tour amateur title. After opening the tournament by posting lackluster rounds of 28, 28, and 27, Hoover crafted a masterful final-round 21 to pole-vault up the amateur leader board and cruise to a three-stroke victory with a 72-hole total of 104. Prohibitive pre-tournament amateur division favorite Ray Guthrie notched second place honors at 107. Third-round leader Ben Blake dropped into third position at 109 by virtue of a disappointing fourth-round 31. At 110, former PPA professional Billy Caudle finished in fourth place. Unheralded amateur David Gregor turned in a stellar performance, tying 2003 APA National Champion Bonnie White for fifth position at 111.
Play began in the amateur division with some sluggish field scoring. Guthrie grabbed the early lead at 25. Gregor and Jared Whitaker each posted 26 to share second position. A fourth-place tie at 27 included the recently red-hot Mark Lawson and Augusta, GA's Art Koerber.
Guthrie continued his solid play through 36 holes, carding a second-round 26 to take a two-stroke lead at 51. Firing 25, Blake jumped into second place at 53. Gregor stayed in contention, tied for third position at 54 with 2006 PPA Women's National Champion Vanette Block, who posted a second-round 25. Former High Point, NC Golf Association President, long-time PPA professional, and gallery favorite Robert Ward shot a second-round 27 to move into a three-way, fifth-place tie at 55 with Lawson and 2007 APA Senior National Champion Larry Smith.
The amateur competition remained heated through three rounds. With a third-round 25, Blake wrestled the 54-hole lead from Guthrie at 78. Guthrie remained within a stroke of Blake's lead, in second place at 79. Gregor recorded a third-round 26 to maintain possession of third position at 80. Carding a third-round 25, White maneuvered into a fourth-place tie with Block at 81.
Mired in a sixth-place tie after 54 holes, Hoover took full advantage of the final-round difficulties which seemingly were pandemic among the third-round leaders. Hoover steamrolled to the top of the final leader board with a spectacular fourth-round 21, giving him a 72-hole score of 104 and a surprisingly easy three-stroke victory. Guthrie shot a fourth-round 28 to earn a second-place finish at 107. With a final-round 31, Blake fell into third position at 109. Shooting a fourth-round 26, Caudle leaped into fourth place at 110. At 111, Gregor and White shared fifth position. The final of the twelve amateur division expense reimbursement spots awarded in the event fell at a score of 115.
The PPA National Tour membership would like to extend thanks to course manager Chris Graney, host PPA professional Randy Carter, and their staff for welcoming the tour to the beautiful High Point, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center and hosting a weekend of very successful tour events. The tour players were greatly appreciative of the diligent efforts made to maintain the course in outstanding playing condition for the 2008 PPA Southern Open. The PPA National Tour returns to action with the contesting of the 72-hole 2008 PPA Northern Open on course # 3 in Louisville, KY beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 24, 2008.
Article provided by Brad Lebo