18 April 2010 - Killeen, TX - The PPA National Tour ventured to course # 2 of the beautiful and sprawling Killeen, TX Putt-Putt Fun Center to contest the initial event on the 2010 PPA National Tour schedule, the two-day, 144-hole PPA Western Open. Course manager Todd Fox and his staff worked diligently preparing the course in the weeks leading up to the event to create ideal playing conditions. As a result, the unique covered course layout provided a highly skillful test for the players which featured many speed-dependent holes and significant penalties for imprecise tee shots.
PPA Hall of Fame member Greg Ward
of Loganville, GA, the PPA's all-time leader in career wins and money earnings, continued his stellar start to the 2010 PPA season in which he already had captured three tour titles, including a dominating ten-stroke victory in the 54-hole PPA Western Tour event in Killeen, TX several days earlier. Mired in fifth place and trailing 90-hole leader Rainey Statum
by five strokes at the end of five rounds, Ward carded brilliant closing rounds of 22, 23, and 24 to cruise to a five-stroke triumph and capture his third career PPA Western Open title. Ward posted rounds of 25, 29, 22, 27, 27, 22, 23, and 24 for an 89-under-par, 144-hole total of 199 to earn the $600.00 winner's check. Statum settled for runner-up honors at 204. 2007 PPA National Champion Rick Baird
and 2006 PPA National Champion Brad Lebo
shared third place at 205. At 207, 2009 PPA Western Tour Player of the Year Wade Sahmel
finished in fifth position.
Action commenced on an overcast and intermittently rainy Saturday afternoon with Baird seizing the early lead with a sizzling opening-round 22. Baird's 22 eventually would put him in a tie with Ward (twice), 2010 Louisiana State Champion Joe Lea
, and defending champion Randy Reeves
for the low round of the tournament in the professional division. A four-way, second-place logjam at 24 included 2008 GA State Champion Jeff Carr
, 1993 PPA National Champion Andy Coradini
, James Taylor
, and 1984 Louisiana State Champion Jimmy Clark
. Another twelve players lurked at either 25 or 26 after the first round.
Riding the wave of momentum which he established in the opening round, Taylor fired a second-round 23 to jump to the front of the pack after 36 holes at 47. Carr moved into second place at 49. With a third-round 24, Lebo leapfrogged into a tie for third position with Baird at 50. At 51, Statum held fifth place.
Taylor's torrid pace cooled off a bit in the third round, as he carded 29. By manufacturing rounds of 23 and 24, respectively, Statum and Lebo pushed into a tie atop the 54-hole leaderboard at 74. Ward crafted a third-round 22 to creep into a third-place tie with Taylor and Baird at 76.
The scores began to separate in the event's fourth round. Statum fired a fourth-round 24 to establish the lead at 98 at the tournament's halfway mark. Lebo and Baird would join Statum in Sunday's final threesome. Lebo stood in second place after 72 holes at 100, while Baird held third position at 102. Ward completed the first day of action in fourth place at 103. At 104, Carr and PPA Hall of Fame member Mike Baldoza
would enter the final day deadlocked in fifth position.
The infamous swirling winds of Central Texas greeted the players on an overcast and cool Sunday morning as the second day of play began. In the fifth round, there was not much movement among the overnight leaders. Statum carded a fifth-round 26 to open up a three-stroke lead at 124 after 90 holes. Shooting a fifth-round 27, in which he suffered his only bogey of the tournament, Lebo remained in second place at 127. The major move of the fifth round came from 2008 Texas State Champion Tom Adair
, who fashioned an eye-popping 23 in the tricky winds to leap into third position at 128. Baird and Ward each posted 27. Baird completed the fifth round in fourth place at 129, while Ward clung to fifth position at 130.
The competition intensified during the event's sixth round, as many low scores were posted. With a sixth-round 23, Statum stretched his lead to five strokes with a 108-hole total of 147. Ward recorded his second 22 of the tournament to surge into a second-place tie with Baird, who shot 23, at 152. Lebo's second consecutive 27 of the day dropped him into fourth position at 154. Baldoza shot 25 to claw his way into fifth place at 155.
Ward began the penultimate round by posting a lackluster front-nine 14. He regrouped quickly and in championship fashion on the inward nine, however, as he crafted a perfect "9" to rally to a seventh-round 23. Meanwhile, Statum struggled to a seventh-round 30. When the dust settled, Ward had wrestled the lead from Statum and established a two-stroke lead at 175 with one round remaining. Baird carded 25 to share second place with Statum at 177. By firing a seventh-round 24, Lebo crept within three strokes of Ward's lead, in fourth position at 178. Lea shot 24 to rise into a fifth-place tie with Sahmel at 181.
Ward opened the final round with aces on his first four holes to stretch his consecutive aces string to thirteen. But Statum refused to go away quietly, as he fought back valiantly from his seventh-round woes to ace the first seven holes of the eighth round. The well of aces subsequently went dry for Statum, however, as he recorded only two more aces in the round. Ward's closing-round 24 was enough to give him a comfortable five-stroke victory with a 144-hole total of 199. Statum held on to earn runner-up honors at 204. Baird and Lebo tied for third place at 205. At 207, Sahmel completed the event in fifth position. Lea shot 208 to finish in sixth place. With a final-round 23, Carr climbed into seventh position at 209. Bunched in a five-way, eighth-place tie at 212 were two-time PPA National Match Play Champion Charlie Greenwalt
, 2007 Louisiana State Champion Byron Kirby
, Baldoza, 2005 Louisiana State Champion Lee Messinger
, and Adair.
The cash line for the sixteen money spots awarded in the professional division fell at a 144-hole score of 219. The twelve qualification spots into the 2010 PPA Tournament Players Championship available at the 2010 PPA Western Open were accepted by Ward, Baird, Lebo, Carr, Messinger, Adair, Reeves, Coradini, Tony Varnadore
, Jeffrey Smith
, Jeff McDonald
, Rick Rybaczek
, and David McCollister
In the amateur division, Pat Simpson
of Denton, TX successfully negotiated a wild roller coaster ride en route to his first career PPA National Tour amateur division title. After establishing a four-stroke overnight lead with a 72-hole total of 108, Simpson suffered a fifth-round 34 to tumble into fourth place, six strokes behind 90-hole amateur leader Dwain Willett
. In the seventh round, however, Simpson rebounded brilliantly with a tournament-low 21 to soar back to the top of the amateur leaderboard. A final-round 26 gave Simpson an emphatic eight-stroke victory. Simpson recorded rounds of 28, 24, 26, 30, 34, 28, 21, and 26 for a final 144-hole total of 217. By virtue of a closing-round 26, 2005 Texas Tour Tournament Players Champion Steve Tanton
surged into second place. Sixth-round leader Charles Cox
finished third at 227. Willett completed the event in fourth position at 229. At 231, 2007 Texas Tour APA State Champion Mike Huckaby
rounded out the amateur division top five. The final of the nine amateur division expense reimbursement spots allocated in the tournament fell at a score of 238. The six qualification spots awarded in the amateur division for the 2010 PPA Tournament Players Championship went to Simpson, Willett, Huckaby, 2007 APA National Doubles Champion Adam Sahmel
, Tony Newcomb
, and 2007 Northern Open APA Champion Ken Stanfill
The PPA National Tour membership extends its thanks and expresses it great appreciation to course manager Todd Fox and his staff for their warm hospitality and extensive efforts in hosting a very successful tournament weekend. The PPA National Tour returns to action on the weekend of May 15-16, 2010 when the PPA Southern Putting Tour will host the 144-hole PPA Southern Open on course # 1 at the Burlington, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center. Action commences at noon on Saturday, May 15 and at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 16.