We are the Champions

By Jason SobelAugust 23, 2009, 4:00 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – There are a few magic numbers in golf. Like 59 and 18 – and if you have to ask, you’re probably on the wrong website right now.

At this week’s Golf Channel Am Tour national championship, some other magic numbers were in play.

There were 570 total competitors in the open division flights. They played in temperatures that reached 100 degrees each day. Which meant there were 20,000 total bottles of water consumed and more than 4,000 iced towels distributed.

There was one more magic number, too: Six. That’s how many national champions were crowned on Tuesday. These are their stories:

Paul Erdman knows all about close calls.

“I’m probably the only guy who’s missed the U.S. Open by a shot, the U.S. Amateur by a shot, U.S. PubLinks by a shot and U.S. Mid Am by a shot,” the affable 43-year-old said. “I mean, losing in playoffs and stuff. It’s always been a shot here or a shot there.”

Not this time. Erdman parlayed a final-round 2-under 70 into a three-stroke victory in the Championship Flight, as he was the only player in the 65-man field to break par for the tournament.

Throughout the last day, he always knew what was at stake.

“The heart is pumping, breathing getting heavy – that’s something I’m not used to,” he said. “I haven’t had that much adrenaline going through me in a long time. That’s hard work dealing with that stuff.”

Erdman is no stranger to hard work. He founded the golf program at University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which is now defunct, then worked as a general manager and head professional before regaining his amateur status in 1999.

Now an insurance agent in Erie, Colo., this culminated a perfect season, as he won every single Golf Channel Am Tour event in which he competed – but it was the last one that meant the most.

“This is great, man,” he said excitedly. “I just won something that I’ve been thinking about for years and years.”


As winner of the Palmer Flight two years ago, Patrick Polzin had some words of advice for 54-hole leader Kyle Zeitz prior to the final round.

“It’s tough playing in the lead,” Polzin said from experience. “I let him know that last night. I also told him this is the course I shot 68 on and that he was going to have a hard time sleeping.

“I told Kyle, ‘You know, buddy, I hope I have an opportunity to put some heat on you early and see what you’re made of. I want to make you earn it. If you win and you beat me, I’m fine with that.”

It didn’t happen. Zeitz posted four double-bogeys in his final six holes to turn a five-shot lead into a six-shot loss.

For his part, Polzin, a 45-year-old sheet metal worker from Indian Head Park, Ill., just played solid golf as his playing partner flailed, taking his second title in three years.

“I didn’t think he was going to crumble,” Polzin said, “but I planted the seeds in his head last night. That’s fair game.”


As a golfer, Tim Williams calls himself a “competition freak.” As a solution architect for Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, he calls himself a “geek.”

Great combination, huh?

“Actually,” Williams said with a laugh, “not really.”

The Hogan Flight’s self-described freak-and-geek needed to make a par on the final hole to win his first national championship title.

“I tried not to let the pressure get to me,” said the 43-year-old from McKinney, Texas. “On the outside, you wouldn’t  know I was under pressure, but on the inside, I was just in knots. This is one of the first times I’ve ever felt pressure like this.”

After the round, Williams appeared more tired and relieved than triumphant, but maintained it was just a result of all the mental energy he used up on the course.

“It wasn’t a very difficult course, but I made it difficult,” he explained. “I said to myself, ‘This is it. Last group. Let’s just step on the pedal.’ And that’s what I did.”


For a guy who had never played the Golf Channel Am Tour prior to this year, Brad Bishop didn’t realize how nervous he could get.

“I joined it just for the competition. I never imagined coming here, but I qualified, so I came,” he explained. “But from the first tee shot all the way through the round, I was pretty nervous.”

Coming down the stretch in the final round of the Sarazen Flight, Bishop led by just a single stroke with two holes to play, but extended that differential to four en route to the victory.

After opening rounds of 89-85, the Alden, N.Y. closed 80-81 – not far off from his career best of 77.

“Everything went my way, I guess,” said the 31-year-old residential painter. I just kept saying I wanted to hit the fairways and the middle of every green – and I think I only missed one fairway today.”


Just after closing out his Jones Flight victory by a single stroke, Suneil Aggarwal was posing for photographs while kissing the crystal trophy.

“I like the way that sounds,” he said with a laugh.

The sound should be familiar. Aggarwal, 39, successfully defended last year’s title in wire-to-wire fashion, though he needed to make a five-foot bogey putt on the final hole to clinch the victory.

“I can’t say it feels better this year,” explained the Alpharetta, Ga., resident, who works as a vice president of sales for a technology company, “but it does, a little bit.”

Consider this one validation, as last year’s final round was rained out, giving Aggarwal a weather-shortened three-round triumph.

“This puts to rest a lot of people who were questioning whether I could hold it together for four days,” he said. “I know I was questioning whether I could hold it together for four days.”


Bilal Jordan just started playing golf in late-2007. It quickly turned from a hobby to a passion to an obsession.

How much of one? Since qualifying for the Snead Flight national championship in early August, the Houston-based physician and insurance company owner traveled to the Jim McLean Golf School in Palm Springs three separate times to work on his game.

The extra effort paid off, as he posted the best score of the final round – an 88 to secure the title by four strokes.

“I want to get better. My goal is to continue to get better,” said Jordan, 32. “I put in some additional work and it paid off. Hard work pays off.”

It should be noted that he is the first player in quite a long time to win while decked out in a red shirt, black pants and a TW-logo hat.

“I had to represent the Tiger red today,” he said with a laugh. “I had to put on the red and black.”

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.