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Texan Wins $50,000 PPA National Championship
“Never did I imagine,”
Jeff Smith says of 11th round 20 that vaults the 54-year-old
pro to the 55thAnnual PPA National Championship, his third straight
PPA National Tour victory and a first-place paycheck of $10,000.
LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA – Twice a bridesmaid, but no longer.
Jeff Smith has his crown jewel.
“I was confident I would have another opportunity, and I am thrilled that I won in Lake Charles, home of my late friend Al Simpson.,” says Jeff Smith, 54, who parlayed an 11th round 20 into a commanding lead that provided the Texan with the $50,000 PPA National Championship. “When I hit the final putt, I felt overjoyed, feeling like the most fortunate man on the planet at that moment. Making it to the club that includes Greg Ward, Vance Randall, Alan Quinnelly, Lewis Burton, Andy Coradini, Randy Reeves, Bill Kirby Jr., Cliff Matthews among others is a goal of nearly 25 years realized. My only regret is that my mom, my dad and Al Simpson weren't here on earth to share the victory with me.”
Smith posted rounds of 24, 26, 25, 25, 24, 24, 23, 24, 25, 26, 20 and 25 for a 291 total, 141 under par, on the lightning-fast Lake Charles carpets for a 4-stroke victory over Kevin Lacey, the 2008 PPA National Champion from Cincinnati, Ohio, to take home the $10,000 first-place check. Lacey had rounds of 25, 27, 27, 27, 21, 22, 23, 27, 24, 25, 25 and 22 for 295, 137 under par, and a runner-up finish for the second consecutive year for a $5,000 paycheck. Joe Lea of Katy, Texas, fired scores of 25, 30, 23, 28, 26, 27, 24, 28, 20, 27, 22 and 22 for a 302 total, 130 under par, and third place for $3,500.
Andy Coradini of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, who was bidding for his third PPA National title, Bill Kirby Jr., the 1995 PPA National Champion from Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Kevin Rutledge of Bristol, Virginia, shared fourth, all at 303, with each winning $2,100.
Rick Baird, the 2007 PPA National Champion from Charlotte, North Carolina, was alone in seventh at 306, followed by Jim Cruse of Baltimore, Ohio, eighth at 309. 2005 PPA National Champion Jay Klapper of Lawrenceville, Georgia and Greg Ward of Loganville, Georgia, a two-time PPA National Champion and the sport's most time-honored player, tied for ninth at 310.
No Longer A
Smith carried a 2-stroke lead over Lacey and Coradini in what began a 36-hole shootout on the final day of the 216-hole marathon that stretched over three days, and akin to the 1963 PPA National Championship in Cleveland, Ohio, a $50,000 event won by Johnny Spotts of Indianapolis, Indiana.
There was pressure.
Twice, Smith had flirted with this title.
Twice, in playoffs, Smith failed.
Smith suffered an 18-hole playoff loss to Lewis Burton of Lawrenceville, Georgia, when he held a two-stroke lead with three holes remaining in the 1998 PPA National Championship at Orlando, Florida, and was one up on Greg Ward with three holes to play in an 18-hole playoff in the 2012 PPA National Championship in Columbus, Indiana, before losing on the 20th extra hole.
Now, on this October 3rd afternoon in the old Southwest town along Lake Charles, Prien Lake and the Calcasieu River and just a 30-mile drive from the Gulf of Mexico, Jeff Smith again was again bidding for the sport's most prestigious prize.
This time would be different.
This would be his time.
This would be his moment.
This was his championship for the taking.
And, this time, he would not be a bridesmaid.
“I was really happy to see Jeff Smith win the 2014 PPA National Championship,” says Ward, the 53-year-old PPA Hall of Famer who owns 19 major PPA titles and reigns as the most dominate player in the 60-year-history of the organization. “Jeff has been a great player for a long time. After losing in a playoff to win the PPA National Championship on two previous occasions, I guess you could say it was his turn. Jeff is a class act, and he will be a great representative for the PPA as its national champion.”
Burton, 49, remembers Smith's runner-up finish in Orlando.
“I'm extremely happy for Jeff.” said Burton, the 1998 and 1989 PPA National Champion, and a PPA Hall of Famer. “He's been tremendously gracious in heartbreaking losses in the past. A lesser player might not recover from such disappointment, but Jeff has more than bounced back. He has demonstrated resilience that is the mark of a true champion. I'm glad to see his enthusiasm for the game has been rewarded. I wish I could have been there to congratulate him in person. I'm sure he will represent the game we love with humility and sportsmanship.”
Lacey, Lea, Coradini Laud Conquering Champion Continue reading