Nate Nichols and Jerry Pinotti Earn Sweet One-Stroke Victory in PPA National Doubles Championship
15 September 2009 - Orlando, FL - On a typically hot, sunny, and oppressively humid central Florida late summer afternoon, 31 two-player teams vied for the 2009 PPA National Doubles Championship title on the Magnolia and Fountain courses at the Orange Lake Resort and Country Club's Putt-Putt Golf facility in Orlando, FL. The unique 72-hole format included, in order, rounds of alternate hole, better ball, better ball, and alternate hole competition. In a very tightly-contested battle, 2008 Northern Putting Tour Medal Play Champion Nate Nichols of Columbus, IN and 2008 PPA Northern Open Champion Jerry Pinotti of Jeffersonville, IN notched a hard-fought, come-from-behind one-stroke victory. According to Nichols' assessment, the difference may have been the high quality of his team's ball striking during the event. "Jerry and I were hitting them sweet," noted the 33-year-old 6th grade teacher.
Action commenced in the tournament with defending champions Vince Batten and Brad Lebo soaring into a tie for the opening-round lead at 25 with the Southern Putting Tour tandem of Michael Hitt and Tony Jackson. Six other teams hovered just a stroke behind the first-round leaders. Batten and Lebo continued their blazing pace in the next round, acing the first 16 holes of the better ball format on the Fountain course en route to a second-round 19 and a two-stroke 36-hole lead at 44. Nichols and Pinotti fired 20 in the same round to leapfrog into second place at 46. Matching the second-round 19 of the defending champions, 2005 PPA National Doubles Champions Kevin Lacey and Greg Ward maneuvered into a six-way tie for third place at 47 at the tournament's halfway mark.
There was little movement on the leaderboard following the round of better ball action on the Magnolia course, as many of the leading teams shot either 21 or 22 in the third round. Batten and Lebo carded 21 to maintain their two-stroke lead after 54 holes at 65. Nichols and Pinotti also fired 21 to remain alone in second position at 67. Yet another 21 was posted by the Hitt and Jackson squad, giving them sole possession of third place at 68. Four more teams lurked at 69.
Batten and Lebo started sluggishly on the challenging front nine of the Fountain course in the alternate shot format of the final round. The duo then found trouble at the potentially-dangerous 11th hole, as their tee shot hit the far end of a dent on the inside of the left rail and slid behind an obstacle. After suffering their only bogey of the tournament there, Batten and Lebo rallied to post a fourth-round 29 and establish the clubhouse lead at a 72-hole total of 94. Grouped in the day's first pairing, Batten and Lebo watched with trepidation as the challenging teams completed their final holes. Playing in a late pairing, Pinotti stepped to the 18th tee with a chance to win the event for his team with a birdie. Pinotti calmly executed yet another textbook pendulum stroke, and with the resulting ace he and Nichols recorded a final-round 26 for a 72-hole total of 93 and a one-stroke triumph. At 94, Batten and Lebo settled for a tie for runner-up honors with Lacey and Ward, who shot an inspired final-round 25. 1997 PPA National Champion Randy Reeves and four-time TX State Champion Rainey Statum carded a fourth-round 26 to tie Hitt and Jackson for fourth place at 95. The last of the fifteen money spots distributed in the tournament fell at a 72-hole total of 103.
In the amateur division, two rising amateur stars who each have been competing in the sport for just several years earned a surprising and impressive victory. Augusta, GA's Art Koerber, who captured the first win of his amateur career in this event, and David Myers of High Point, NC, who notched his first career amateur victory earlier in the season on his home course, combined to card rounds of 27, 23, 23, and 30 for a 72-hole score of 103 and a two-stroke, wire-to-wire triumph. Myers and Koerber opened up a six-stroke lead with one round remaining and easily cruised to victory with a carefully-negotiated fourth-round 30. PPA Western Tour amateur stalwarts Alan Sahmel and Danny Tatum finished in second place at 105. At 106, the Southern Putting Tour APA squad of Chris Hudson and Todd Trent completed the event in third position. Defending champions Chuck Dibbs and Mike Matthews made a strong clubhouse run with a final-round 25 to finish fourth at 107. Rounding out the top five finishers and earning the final amateur division expense reimbursement spot awarded in the event were 2007 APA National Doubles Champions Mickey DeLucca and Adam Sahmel.
The events of the 2009 PPA National Championship week will continue with the contesting of the 2009 PPA Reunion Tournament, a special event organized as part of the festivities of the 50th PPA National Championship week. All rounds of the 54-hole tournament will be played on the Fountain course of the Orange Lake Resort and Country Club's Putt-Putt Golf facility in Orlando, FL beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 16, 2009.
Article provided by Brad Lebo