23 August 2009 - High Point, NC - On course # 1 of the beautiful and historic High Point, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center, the Southern Putting Tour contested the 35th annual North Carolina State Championship. Significant late-afternoon rainfall on the previous day resulted in favorable damp conditions in the calmer morning session of the 108-hole marathon. Players battled rapidly-changing and more tedious conditions later in the day, however, as light afternoon winds and bright sunshine continued to gradually dry out the course's carpets.
Action began in the professional division with reigning PPA Eastern Open Champion Greg Newport
, who won the previous day's 54-hole event, seizing a one-stroke opening-round lead over 2004 NC State Champion Gary English
with a sizzling, tournament-low 21. With a second-round 25, English leapfrogged into the 36-hole lead at 47 and enjoyed a two-stroke cushion over High Point co-course record holder Randy Carter
. English continued his steady and stellar play in the event's third round, firing another 25 to establish the lead at 72 at the tournament's midpoint. Newport rebounded from a second-round 30 with a third-round 23 to complete the morning session tied for second place with 2006 PPA National Champion Brad Lebo
at a 54-hole total of 74. 2007 GA State Champion Frank Warren
manufactured a third-round 23 to climb into fourth position at 75 with three rounds remaining.
After an hour-long break for lunch and re-pairing of the tournament contestants by 54-hole standing, fourth-round play commenced. Lebo stormed out of the gate with a fourth-round 23 to grab a two-stroke 72-hole lead at 97. English carded 27 and held second place at 99, with Newport lurking in third position at 100. In the event's penultimate round, Lebo and Newport matched 26's to create a bit of separation between themselves and the rest of the field. Lebo entered the final round of play with a five-round total of 123, three strokes ahead of Newport. 2007 PPA National Champion Rick Baird
used a fifth-round 24 to move into contention, in third place at 128. 1997 PPA National Champion Randy Reeves
also shot 24 in the fifth round to head into the final round tied for fourth position at 129 with English, who carded 30 in the fifth round.
Predictably, the competition became heated between Lebo and Newport in the final round. Newport closed within one stroke of Lebo's lead after firing 10 on the outward nine holes. Newport deuced holes 11 and 12, however, and with aces on each of those holes, Lebo once again increased his lead to three strokes. With an ace on the 15th hole, Newport crept within two strokes of Lebo's lead with three holes remaining. Lebo fought back with clutch aces on the 16th and 17th holes, however, to assume a three-stroke advantage with one hole left to play. Lebo prudently laid up the uphill 18th hole right of the hole for a tap-in deuce and in the process secured his third career NC State Championship title and his fifth victory of the 2009 PPA season. Lebo's rounds of 24, 26, 24, 23, 26, and 25 gave him a 108-hole total of 148 and a three-stroke win. Newport earned runner-up honors at 151. Posting a timely final-round 23, 2003 PPA National Champion Robert Johnson
pole-vaulted into third place at 153. English carded a sixth-round 25 to finish fourth at 154. Baird rounded out the event's top five finishers at 155. The final of the fourteen money spots awarded in the tournament fell at a 108-hole total of 162.
In a tightly-contested amateur division battle, 2006 PPA Women's National Champion Vanette Block
orchestrated a come-from-behind charge to catch 2008 Southern Open APA Champion Larry Hoover
and capture her ninth Southern Putting Tour amateur division triumph of the 2009 season. Block followed morning rounds of 28, 26, and 29 with stellar afternoon rounds of 22, 25, and 24 for a 108-hole score of 154. Entering the sixth round, Block trailed by three strokes, but fired a perfect "9" on the front nine of the final round to overtake Hoover's lead en route to victory. Despite having sat atop the amateur division leaderboard after each of the first five rounds of the event, Hoover settled for a second-place finish at 156. Reigning Eastern Open APA Champion Larry Smith
crafted a final-round 24 to leap into a tie for third position with 2001 PPA National Championship runner-up Ray Guthrie
at 159. At 160, former PPA 54-hole scoring record holder Steve Lyon
completed the event in fifth place. The cash line for the thirteen amateur division expense reimbursement spots distributed in the tournament came at a score of 167.
The Southern Putting Tour extends thanks to course manager Chris Graney, host professional Randy Carter, and their staff for graciously welcoming the tour to the picturesque High Point, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center for a weekend of successful tournaments. As always, the tour membership greatly appreciated Graney's hospitality and the extensive efforts made by Graney and his staff to prepare the course and facility for the weekend's events. The final regular-season stop on the Southern Putting Tour schedule will be the Red Course at the Martinez, GA Putt-Putt Fun Center on the weekend of September 5-6, 2009. A 54-hole tournament will begin at noon on Saturday, September 5. The 108-hole GA State Championship will commence at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 6.