|Oklahoman Jim Woodward Closes with Classic Shot; Captures the 24th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship|
|Jim Woodward, PGA teaching professional at Oak Tree National Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., made eagle on the final hole en route to a one-stroke victory. Woodward, the first South Central PGA Section member to win the national championship, finished with a 72-hole total of 1-under-par 287.|
ALDIE, Va. - Jim Woodward of Edmond, Okla., had declared loud and clear to anyone who would listen that the 18th hole at Creighton Farms was his Waterloo.
As the final 20 minutes of the 24th Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship presented by Mercedes-Benz unfolded Sunday, Woodward may request a photo of the hole for his trophy case.
"I stood on the 18th tee and said to myself, 'Don't be a coward,' " said Woodward.
The 55-year-old PGA teaching professional at Oak Tree National Golf Club in Edmond, uncorked a mammoth drive, then hit a 4-hybrid approach 245 yards on the 569-yard, par-5 closing hole. The ball hit the green some 30 feet in front of the flagstick, coming to rest a foot from the hole. Woodward tapped in for eagle, edging Mike Miles of Huntington Beach, Calif., by one stroke. That made Woodward the first South Central PGA Section member to win either a Senior PGA Professional National Championship or PGA Professional National Championship.
Woodward finished with a 1-over-par 73 for a 72-hole total of 1-under-par 287, the only player in a 264-player field to finish below par. Miles, who birdied four of the final six holes, had a 69.
"I'm very honored to be the first from our Section to win this," said an emotional Woodward. "It feels pretty good."
When reminded once again of his scrapbook-like effort on the 72nd hole, Woodward shook his head.
"I can't think of a shot that was better, considering the timing," he said. "You couldn't script it any better than that. To put that one at the flag in that situation was something else."
Miles, a PGA assistant professional at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif., nearly made his debut appearance just as memorable. He birdied four of the final six holes for a 69, and waited by the 18th green to witness Woodward's dramatic finish.
"Jim and I are good friends, and I played with him played yesterday, when he had an amazing round (66), said Miles. "This kind of wind, it makes it tough on everybody. My primary goal was the top 35. I had not played well all summer. We don't play many golf courses like this too often. This is a championship golf course."
Miles had his chance to separate himself on the 18th green. He hit a 3-wood to 25 feet above the hole and lagged the eagle putt to within two feet for birdie.
Woodward earned $20,000 from a total purse of $285,000, and has his name etched on the Leo Fraser Trophy.
Bob Gaus of St. Louis, Mo., who had a 74, and Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., who turned in a 71, shared third at 290.
Woodward said that he stood in the fairway at 18 not knowing how Miles had finished and believing that he was tied for the lead, needing birdie to win. Woodward did not know until after he finished that Miles had birdied five of his final six holes to shoot 69 and grab a temporary one-stroke lead.
"Honestly, I thought I was tied with Mike (Miles) at 1-over, and that is why I decided to go for the green in two and make birdie. I didn't know that he had birdied 18," he said. "It would have been a better story if I told you I did know."
"I hit two great putts on 16 and 17 and didn't make either one. I can't believe I killed the driver. Then I thought, if I catch the Rescue club real good, it might roll up there."
Woodward opened the final round with a two-stroke advantage on Gaus and Mike Lawrence of Anderson, S.C., before spinning a bogey-double bogey slump on the second and third holes.
"Everyone is going to have a train wreck somewhere on this course, and I had mine on the first three holes," said Woodward. "The hole that really turned things around for me was the birdie at No. 5. I seemed to settle down after that."
Gaus was taking command with three consecutive birdies between the fifth and seventh holes before his ball found the hazard on the par-4 eighth hole, and came away with a triple bogey 7.
"Everyone is going to have problems on this golf course," said Gaus. "My goal was to make the top 35, and I am very happy to be in the top five and headed to my hometown next year, and to play Bellerive."
The low 35 scorers advanced to the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, May 23-26, 2013, at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. It will be the 15th major championship for Woodward.
"I'm 55 and I don't know how many more majors are in my picture," said Woodward. "Anytime you get the opportunity to play in one, it is very special. And I don't want to just go and play in it, I want to be competitive."
Woodward turned his fortunes around with a second-round 70 at River Creek Club on a gusty afternoon that confounded the field. He then added a third-round 66 at Creighton Farms to match the competitive course record set a year earlier in the second round by Mike Lawrence of Anderson, S.C.
Anderson finished fifth this year after a closing 75.
"I still don't know how I shot a 66 on this golf course," said Woodward. "I was hitting everything close. My longest birdie putt was about 15 feet. The rest were all two-putts or tap-ins."
Begun in 1989, the Senior PGA Professional National Championship is modeled after the PGA Professional National Championship, with a field of 50-and-older senior PGA Professionals who advanced through 41 Section Championships conducted from July through September each year.
The top five finishers earned an exemption into the final stage of the 2012 Champions Tour National Finals. Since its debut, many participants in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship have used their success in the event as a springboard to a Champions Tour career.
Jim Woodward, Edmond, Okla. 78-70-66-73--287