2-3 June 2012 - High Point, NC - Course manager Chris Graney welcomed the PPA National Tour to the High Point, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center to contest its second event of the 2012 season, the two-day PPA Southern Open, hosted by the PPA Southern Putting Tour. Graney and his staff worked diligently in the period leading up to the event to prepare course # 2 and the facility grounds for the tour's arrival. Beating sunshine on the opening day of the event followed by tricky swirling winds on the final day of play contributed to a surprisingly wide array of field scoring in the abbreviated 108-hole format. But as anticipated on the fickle course # 2 layout, competition was heated near the top of the leaderboard. In a dramatic conclusion to the tournament, 1996 PPA Commissioner's Cup Champion Danny McCaslin, a charismatic 46-year-old waiter from Holly Springs, NC, overtook first-day and fifth-round leader Kevin Lacey with a spectacular final-round 21 to capture the second PPA National Tour major title of his storied career. McCaslin's victory was well-deserved, representing the culmination of months of arduous preparation during which time he had won multiple local events on the tournament course.
Action began in the professional division with McCaslin seizing the opening-round lead with a first-round 22. Lacey fired 23 to take sole possession of second position. A four-way, third-place tie at 25 included PPA Hall of Fame legend Daryl Freeman, 2011 PPA Western Open Champion Frank Warren, three-time USPMGA U.S. Open Champion Matt McCaslin, and 1985 PPA television series contestant Jeff Spainhour.
With a second-consecutive 23, Lacey leapfrogged over McCaslin to establish the 36-hole lead at 46. McCaslin carded 26 to fall in second place at 48. McCaslin's younger sibling Matt posted another 25 and stood in third position at 50. Two-time PPA National Doubles Champion Nate Nichols shot 22 to climb into a fourth-place tie with dapperly-clad 2009 PPA National Champion Tony Varnadore.
Lacey continued his torrid pace in the third round of play, manufacturing a 24 to set the overnight lead at a 54-hole total of 70 and enter the final day of play enjoying a five-stroke advantage over the field. With a third-round 27, McCaslin clung to second place at 75. In third place at 76, Varnadore would join Lacey and McCaslin in the second day's final threesome. A two-way, fourth place tie at 77 included Matt McCaslin and 1999 PPA television series contestant Darrell Britt.
The windswept final day began with Lacey struggling to a fourth-round 29 but holding on to a tenuous lead with a 72-hole score of 99. Danny McCaslin and Varnadore took advantage of the opportunity, firing respective rounds of 25 and 24 to maneuver within a stroke of Lacey's lead, tied for second place at 100. At 103, Matt McCaslin held fourth position. Nichols jumped into fifth place at 104.
In the event's penultimate round, Varnadore made the biggest move among the leaders, crafting a fifth-round 26 to creep into a tie for the 90-hole lead at 126 with Lacey, who carded 27. Despite a lackluster 28, McCaslin remained in contention, in third place at 128. PPA Hall of Fame member Greg Ward continued his second-day assault on the leaderboard, climbing into fourth position at 130 with initial second-day rounds of 24 and 25. Nichols stood alone in fifth place at 131, with a total of seven more players hovering at 132 and 133.
The tide turned McCaslin's way as final-round action commenced. Despite getting noodled on hole 8 on the outward nine, McCaslin posted on opening-nine score of 10 to take command of the tournament. McCaslin rode the momentum into the clubhouse, failing to ace only holes 11 and 18 on the inward nine to post a brilliant closing-round 21 and earn a three-stroke triumph with a 108-hole total of 149. Along with the victory, the three-time USPMGA Masters Champion collected the $800.00 winner's check. Lacey and Varnadore fought valiantly, carding matching final-round 26's to share runner-up honors at 152. Mired in 13th place with one round remaining, 2010 PPA National Champion Greg Newport, playing on his long-time home course, authored an eye-popping tournament-low sixth-round 20, missing only holes 3 and 18 en route to establishing a new course # 2 record. The sizzling round pushed Newport into a fourth-place finish at 154. Britt and Freeman used strong respective final rounds of 24 and 23 to charge into a tie for fifth at 156. The final of the 28 money spots awarded in the professional division fell at a 108-hole total of 167. Danny McCaslin, Newport, Freeman, Nichols, and Warren accepted the five spots offered to the top five finishers in the 2012 PPA Southern Open who did not already earn such a spot in the 2012 PPA Western Open for free entry fees into the professional division of the 2012 Tournament Players Championship to be held during the PPA National Championship week.
In the amateur division, an epic four-player battle for the title developed between reigning APA National Doubles Champion Johnny Brown, current Tournament Players Championship APA Champion Dr. Chris Chafin, 2010 APA National Champion Joey Graybeal, and 1997 ESPN-TV contestant Rodney Ashley. Brown entered the final-day of play at 78 to lead High Point local player Andy Pearman by one stroke. With a fourth-round 24, Graybeal surged to the top of the amateur leaderboard with a 72-hole total of 105, one stroke better than Brown and highly-decorated APA veteran Donnie Carpenter. As Graybeal struggled to a penultimate-round 31, Brown and Chafin shot respective fifth-round scores of 27 and 25 to leap into a tie for the 90-hole lead at 133, one stroke in front of hard-charging Ashley and three ahead of Graybeal and 2010 APA National Player of the Year Randal Smith. Chafin and Ashley carded closing rounds of 27 and 26, respectively, to establish the clubhouse lead at 160. Graybeal rebounded courageously from his fifth-round tribulations, shooting 24 to join the logjam at 160. Cognizant of the situation, Brown steadfastly aced his final two holes to make it a quartet of amateurs at 160. A four-way 18-hole playoff would be needed to determine a champion. Carpenter and High Point local standout Ray Guthrie shared fifth place at 164. Amateur division low-round honors went to Andrew Radford, who posted a second-round 23. The last of the 23 amateur division expense reimbursement spots allocated in the tournament came at a six-round score of 177.
The ensuing 18-hole amateur divsion playoff began sluggishly. Early disaster struck for Brown, as he carded a double bogey on the opening playoff hole. After six holes, Graybeal had taken the lead at 3-under par, with Chafin at one-under par and Brown back to even. Chafin subsequently sprung to life, recording eight straight aces on holes 7 through 14 to take a one-shot advantage over Graybeal and three-stroke lead over Brown. But the day and tournament ultimately belonged to Brown, as his aces on the final four holes of the playoff all went unanswered by both Chafin and Graybeal. With a final playoff score of 26, Brown, a Wilson, NC resident, captured the first individual National Tour major amateur title of his career. Chafin completed the playoff at 27, with Graybeal shooting 28 and Ashley carding 31.
The PPA National Tour wishes to extend its collective thanks and gratitude to course manager Chris Graney and his staff for graciously welcoming the tour to the beautiful High Point, NC Putt-Putt Fun Center for a very successful tournament weekend. The PPA National Tour returns to play on the weekend of July 7-8, 2012 at the Columbus, IN Putt-Putt Fun Center for the contesting of the 108-hole 2012 PPA Northern Open, which will be hosted by course owners Carl and Karen Miller and the Indiana and Great Lakes Tours. The Columbus facility also will serve as the site of the 2012 PPA National Championship week from September 11-15. The first three rounds of the PPA Northern Open will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 7. Tee-off for the final 54 holes of the tournament is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 8