Rick Baird's Historic Perfect 18 Overshadows Daryl Freeman's Two-Stroke Victory In Richmond, Virginia
9 April 2011 - Richmond, VA - On an overcast, cool, and calm early spring morning, the Virginia PPA Tour gathered on course # 3 at the beautiful Richmond, VA Putt-Putt Fun Center to contest what most of the 20 professional and 16 amateur tournament contestants initially would have assumed to have been just another routine 54-hole tour event. Just several hours later, however, the field had witnessed perhaps one of the most historic days in PPA history.
In the nearly ideal playing conditions, 2007 PPA National Champion Rick Baird, 53, from Charlotte, NC, opened the tournament with a lackluster round of 27. Mired in a four-way tie for twelfth position, six strokes off of two-time PPA National Doubles Champion Rick Rybaczek's first-round lead, Baird set his sites on moving inside the tournament cash line. Baird, who turned professional in 1984, far exceeded his modest goal, as he proceeded to ace the first sixteen holes of the second round before facing perhaps his biggest hurdle, the fickle 17th hole on which the tee shot is struck off of a triangular obstacle, into a rail, and up a final hill. Baird's well-struck ace effort kicked ideally off of both the obstacle and the rail and found the bottom of the cup. As Baird approached the 18th tee, the field became aware of his situation. Tournament play essentially stopped as players gathered to watch Baird's historic putt. With an almost-eerie hush in the gallery, Baird addressed the ball but then wisely retreated from the tee, briefly gathering his thoughts and emotions. Having composed himself, Baird once again went through his normal pre-shot routine, addressed the ball, and struck his ace putt perfectly. As the ball disappeared into the hole, crowd applause erupted as Baird accepted exuberant congratulations from all of his fellow competitors. Baird joined Warren Morris and 1999 PPA National Champion John Napoli, who on May 23, 1979 was the last to accomplish the feat, as the only players to have recorded a perfect round of 18 in competition in the history of the sport.
Although Baird's middle-round fireworks certainly stole the show, there still was a tournament title up for grabs. With his perfect round, Baird pole-vaulted to the top of the 36-hole leaderboard at 45. Reigning PPA National Champion Greg Newport and one of Baird's playing partners, PPA Hall of Fame legend Daryl Freeman, lurked in close pursuit at 47. Understandably, Baird struggled at the beginning of the final round, ultimately rebounding to card a third-round 29. Freeman took advantage of the opportunity, carding a final-round 23, enough for a two-stroke victory. Rounds of 25, 22, and 23 gave Freeman a 54-hole total of 70 and his first victory of the 2011 PPA season. Newport and Thomas Rawles shared runner-up honors at 72. At 74, Baird and 2009 Dogwood Open Champion Dennis Biesma tied for fourth place. The last of the eleven money spots awarded in the event fell at a score of 77.
In the amateur division, 1998 NC and SC APA State Champion Billy Caudle became the second Charlotte, NC resident of the day to make history. Caudle posted brilliant rounds of 23, 22, and 21 for a 54-hole total of 66 to establish a new all-time amateur division 54-hole scoring record. Mark Smith set the previous record of 67 in a Roanoke, VA local tournament in 2009. Caudle glided to an easy eight-shot victory, his second of the 2011 season. First-round leader John Petrie fired 74 to complete the event in second place. With a closing-round 23, reigning APA National Champion Joey Graybeal maneuvered into third position at 75. Firing 76, two-time APA National Champion Clayton Craft, Esq. finished fourth. Three-time VA APA State Champion Conway Coffey brewed up a 78 to round out the amateur division's top five finishers. The final of the eight amateur division expense reimbursement spots allocated in the tournament came at a total of 81.
The Virginia PPA Tour will return to action with another 54-hole event on course # 3 at the Richmond, VA Putt-Putt Fun Center beginning at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, 2011.
Article provided by Brad Lebo