Robert Johnson Defeats Gary Watson In Playoff to Notch His Third Career PPA Seniors National Championship in Orlando, FL
15 September 2009 - Orlando, FL - The 72-hole 2009 PPA Seniors National Championship, an event limited to professionals 50 years of age and older, was held on the Magnolia and Fountain courses of the Orange Lake Resort and Country Club's Putt-Putt Golf facility in Orlando, FL on an oppressively hot and sunny late summer morning. The play of 2003 PPA National Champion Robert Johnson was as scorching as the temperatures. But the road to victory was not an easy one for Johnson, as the 57-year-old architect was forced to leapfrog three players in the final round of regulation and then defeat a charging Gary Watson in an 18-hole playoff. When the dust settled, however, the wiley veteran from Lake Wiley, SC had captured his record-setting third career PPA Seniors National Championship title. "To have won this tournament now for the third time means a great deal to me," reflected Johnson. "The caliber of competition seems to get better with each passing year, as more quality competitors become eligible to compete. I look forward to defending my title in 2010 in Lynchburg, VA against an even stronger field."
Play began with Johnson sharing the top of the opening-round leaderboard at 22 with 1989 NC State Team Champion Tim Jones of Altamonte Springs, FL, who had returned to competition earlier in the week after a decade-long hiatus from the sport. Jones continued his torrid pace in the second round, firing 23 to build a four-stroke 36-hole lead at 45. Defending champion Daryl Freeman and 2007 PPA National Champion Rick Baird moved into a second-place tie at 49. Watson and 2006 GA State Champion Jeff Carr stood deadlocked in fourth position at 50, with Johnson dropping into sixth place at 51. As course conditions began to toughen, Jones posted a third-round 29 to maintain the 54-hole lead at 74. Freeman and Carr made significant moves in the moving day round, however, carding respective third-round scores of 26 and 25 to maneuver to within a stroke of Jones' lead. Johnson shot 25 to jump into fourth position at 76.
As the carpet fibers continually rose in the final round due to the increasingly intense heat and sunshine of the day, so did the final-round scores of several of the leaders. Jones suffered a disappointing final-round 34 and dropped into a tie for seventh place at 108. As well, Carr shot 32 and fell into sixth place at 107. Johnson and Watson seized the opportunity, manufacturing respective final-round scores of 24 and 22 to complete regulation play tied at a 72-hole total of 100. An 18-hole playoff would be necessary to determine a champion. With a fourth-round 24, 2007 PPA Seniors National Champion Frank Warren pole-vaulted into a third-place tie with Freeman at 103. Baird rounded out the event's top five finishers at 106. The cash line for the fifteen money spots awarded in the professional division of the tournament fell at a 72-hole total of 111.
In the ensuing 18-hole playoff, Watson seemingly lost the momentum he had built during his final-round heroics. Johnson played steadily, cruising to a 26-32 playoff victory. As a result, Johnson earned the right to hoist the PPA Seniors National Championship trophy for the third time in the past eight years.
In the amateur division, another past champion of the event rose to the forefront. 2007 APA Seniors National Champion Larry Smith of Birmingham, AL posted rounds of 25, 27, 31, and 27 for a 72-hole total of 110 to earn a come-from-behind, one-stroke victory. It was the second PPA National Tour amateur division title won in 2009 by the 52-year-old facilities manager, as he also captured the PPA Eastern Open APA Championship in Richmond, VA earlier in the season. Defending champion Bonnie White's valiant effort at retaining her title fell a stroke short of success, as she made an inspired clubhouse run in the fourth round to card a final-round 25 and finish in second place at 111. Reigning Southern Putting Tour APA Champion Ben Blake completed the event in third position at 112. Third-round leader Trevor Lewin endured a final-round 31 but held on to finish in fourth place at 113. At 117, current PPA Western Open APA Champion Mickey Delucca and 1998 APA National Champion Jeff Brown tied for fifth position and garnered the final of the six amateur division expense reimbursement spots allocated in the tournament.
Play in the 2009 PPA National Championship week will resume with the contesting of the 2009 PPA National Doubles Championship on the Magnolia and Fountain courses of the Orange Lake Resort and Country Club's Putt-Putt Golf facility in Orlando, FL. Tee off for that event is scheduled for approximately 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15, 2009.
Article provided by Brad Lebo