Dramatic Playoff Birdie Gives Weaver Win No. 2 and Vaults Him Over the $100,000 Mark in 2012 Earnings
By Stewart Moore
Kannapolis, NC – After finishing bogey-bogey in regulation to force a playoff with Michael Sims at the eGolf Tour’s eighth annual Southern Open, Drew Weaver of High Point, NC calmly rolled in a 30-foot birdie bomb on the first extra hole to claim his second win of the 2012 season, as well as the event’s $24,000 first-place prize. The win, a mere continuation of one of the greatest stretches of golf in recent memory, pushed Weaver’s 2012 earnings over the $100,000 mark, making the former Virginia Tech star the fastest player to the magical six-figure benchmark in tour history.
The Southern Open was the 15th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season, and was contested this week at both The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, NC and the Country Club of Salisbury in Salisbury, NC.
After rounds of 62-67-68—197 to start his week, Weaver entered Saturday’s final round at the Davis Love III-designed Irish Creek course with a three-shot lead over Sims, Dustin Bray, Clark Klaasen and Chip Lynn. With nine holes to play in one of the tour’s more prestigious events, it came down to a two-horse race between Weaver and Sims – but for a brief moment, it almost became a five-man playoff.
Birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 9 by Weaver gave the 2007 British Amateur champion a 32 on his opening nine, and pushed his week-long tally up to 19-under par. In the day’s penultimate threesome, Sims made the biggest move, posting birdies at Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 to turn at 31 and 17-under for the week – just two shy of Weaver.
The five-birdie rally by the native Bermudian was nothing new for Sims, who sent quite the message earlier in the week when he birdied the first eight holes of his second round at Salisbury en route to a tour-record-setting 59 that vaulted the former University of Rhode Island golfer into the record books.
The 12-birdie effort on day two put Sims on the front page of countless golf websites, but guaranteed nothing by week’s end. Forced to continue his birdie barrage in order to catch Weaver, Sims did his best on the closing nine of the final round.
Pars on Nos. 10 through 12 kept Weaver at 19-under, but left him with a narrowed gap as Sims birdied 12 to pull within one, then added a clutch up-and-down at the par-5 13th to tie for the lead.
A solid greenside chip from 30 feet by Weaver left the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team member with a short birdie try, which he converted to regain the lead at 20-under.
Walking off the green, Weaver took his first glance at the leaderboard, and looked a bit bemused to see that Sims had pulled even with him.
“I wasn’t surprised to see him that far under. It’s something you don’t rule out when someone has gone that low earlier in the week,” said Weaver of Sims. “I knew he was capable of it, and thought he would be the guy to make a run. But, after that, I did a really good job of just doing my own thing.”
Up ahead, Sims made an untimely bogey at the par-5 14th, but gained back the lost shot on the very next hole with a birdie at the downhill 211-yard par-3 15th.
As Sims was making birdie at 15, Weaver was attempting to clean up a par at 14, but failed to do so when his 3-foot par putt missed, leading to his first bogey of the day and dropping him back into a tie with Sims at 19-under par.
Close calls by Sims at 16 and 17 brought him to the 242-yard par-3 finishing hole, where a tee shot hit short of the green left a delicate chip shot, which the former Web.com Tour member caught heavy, in turn leaving himself more than an ideal length for par.
As Sims was struggling, so was Weaver. A par at 16 kept him at 19-under, but an errant second shot at the straightaway par-4 17th found a greenside bunker and led to a sub-par sand shot, which left him with roughly 8 feet for par.
At virtually the same time, Sims, thinking he needed a par to have any chance, three-putted the 18th hole for a closing double-bogey that looked as though it ended any hope he had of winning. The closing 67 – somehow his first round in the 60s on the week – left him in the clubhouse at 17-under 267, at the time two shots behind Weaver.
While reading his par putt on 17, Weaver glanced at the leaderboard to see that Sims had double-bogeyed the last, a move he later regretted.
“In hindsight I wish I hadn’t looked over there,” he said. “I was trying to make that putt either way, but a two-shot lead is a lot different than a one-shot lead.”
Weaver missed the par putt on the 71st hole.
Needing a par at the last to win outright, the current Sea Island (GA) blocked a hybrid well right of the green, with his ball coming to rest on the cart path 25 yards right of the front-right hole location. After taking relief, Weaver pitched his ball roughly 50 feet past the hole, setting up an arduous two-putt over a ridge.
“That was just a bad shot on 18, there’s no way around it,” said Weaver, 25. “You hit a shot like that, and all you can do is reassess and regroup for the next one.”
After curling his par effort down to 3 feet, Weaver converted the short bogey putt for a final-round 70 and a 17-under total that put him in a tie with Sims. Just 10 minutes later, the two headed back to the tee of the demanding par-3 finishing hole for a sudden death playoff.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you’ve had the lead and been in control of the entire tournament,” said Weaver of going back to 18 just minutes after posting a playoff-inducing bogey. “I feel like I did a good job of hitting the reset button on the way to the first playoff hole.”
Both players found the center of the green with their tee shots, but it was Weaver bettering Sims, as his ball came to rest on top of the aforementioned ridge, putting straight downhill just 30 feet from the hole. Sims, on the other hand, was approximately 45 feet from the hole, but had to contend with the ridge, as his putt would travel up and then downhill to the hole.
Trying to shake off the difficult finish, Sims cozied his putt down to just 4 feet from the hole, setting up what could have been a simple par try.
He never got a chance to make it.
Weaver, looking straight down a perfect read, reminded himself not to leave it short – a situation he found himself in just over a month ago.
“I thought back to that playoff loss at Rock Barn, where I left that putt short, and told myself I wasn’t going to do that again,” said Weaver, referencing a playoff loss to Matt Harmon at the tour’s HGM Hotels Classic. “I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t leave it short.’”
He didn’t. He left it in the bottom of the cup.
Weaver’s dramatic playoff birdie solidified his second win of the year dating back to the Willow Creek Open in May, and his third career eGolf Tour title dating back to the Caddy For A Cure Classic in September of 2009.
“It was a pretty smooth day for 13 holes, then I had to really hang on after that,” said Weaver. “I’m happy that I was able to keep my composure out there and stay positive heading into that playoff, and then to make the putt to win – things like that don’t happen very often, so it was pretty cool to be a part of it.”
The win moved Weaver’s earnings up to $101,813, in turn allowing him to become just the seventh player in tour history to eclipse the $100,000 mark in single-season earnings, and the fastest in tour history to do so.
Weaver’s six-figure mark puts him in good company alongside the likes of current PGA TOUR members Jason Kokrak (2010), Tommy Biershenk (2010), Scott Brown (2009) and Roberto Castro (2009), as well as current/former Web.com Tour members Matt Davidson (2009) and David Robinson (2008).
“That has been one of my goals since I started playing out here a few years ago, to get past that $100,000 mark,” Weaver said. “That was really important to me. And to do it at this point in the year is a good feeling.”
The win also continued an unreal stretch of golf for Weaver, who now has a mind-numbing two wins and four runner-ups in his last seven starts on the eGolf Tour, going back to a T2 at the Columbia Open in early May.
When asked what the difference was for player who missed his first two cuts of the year, Weaver cited nothing but an improved mental game and overall outlook.
“I just started to believe in myself a bit more, and started trying to stay patient out there,” he said. “It’s easy to get ahead of yourself or lose patience, so I’ve tried real hard to stay more in the moment. It seems to be working pretty well.”
For Sims, the playoff loss marked his best finish on the eGolf Tour since winning the Spring Creek Classic in 2008. The $14,111 runner-up check moved him up to eighth on the tour’s money list with $43,924 in earnings.
Sims made 94 career starts on the Web.com Tour, collecting four top-10 finishes and $184,295 in earnings. His best finish was a tie for ninth, recorded three times, at the 2011 Price Cutter Charity Championship, the 2009 Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the 2009 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
Josh Brock of Wilmington, NC, Chip Lynn of Lillington, NC and Dustin Bray of Asheboro, NC finished in a three-way tie for third at 16-under 268, just one shot shy of the playoff. Each player earned $8,333 for their efforts.
Brock, a winner earlier this year at the Championship at St. James Plantation, birdied the 72nd hole to post a final-round 67 to move inside the top five on the day.
The finish marked the third top-3 of Brock’s breakout 2012 campaign, and pushed his year-long earnings up to $52,848, good for fourth on the tour’s money list. His stellar season is even more impressive when you consider that he missed his first three cuts of the year prior to ending the skid with a T67 at the Irish Creek Classic in mid-March. Just three weeks after that, he won at St. James.
Lynn posted rounds of 66-67-67-68—268 for his best tour finish since notching a T2 in his professional debut at the 2009 Forest Oaks Classic.
The former Fayetteville State golfer eagled the par-5 sixth early in Saturday’s final round to move into contention at 15-under, but added a bogey at the par-4 ninth that dropped him down to 14-under, then five behind Weaver.
Birdies on 13 and 14 took Lynn to 16-under, but a late bogey at the 16th took him – at the time – out of title contention. Much like Brock, Lynn closed with a rare birdie at the last that left him at 3-under on the day and 16-under total.
The T3 effort continued a string of good play for Lynn, who entered the week with T6 and T10 finishes in his last two starts – his first top-10s of the year.
Bray, a four-time eGolf Tour winner and leading money winner in 2006, joined Weaver in Saturday’s final threesome, but quickly fell behind with an early bogey at the par-3 third to fall to 12-under for the week.
A trifecta of birdies on Nos. 6 through 8 took the former UNC Tar Heel star back to 15-under overall, in solo third place, just three behind Weaver with 10 holes to play.
A birdie at 13 took Bray to 16-under, but he gave it back on the very next hole with a bogey at 14 to fall back to 15-under par and, at the time, out of contention.
Bray bounced back with a birdie at 16 that moved him to 16-under, which is where he stood adjacent to the 18th green just 20 minutes later, eyeing a birdie chip to tie Sims at 17-under – an unthinkable rise into contention just one hour prior. Bray’s chip, however, burned the lip and came to rest just past the cup, leaving him a docile tap-in for par and a final-round 68.
The finish, his best on the year, marked just his second top-10, but his 10th top-25 finish in just 12 starts. Bray’s consistency has him at No. 17 on the tour’s money list with earnings of $32,066.
• The tour would like to thank Irish Creek General Manager Jeff Austin, Head Golf Professional Alan Cress, Salisbury Director of Golf Randy Padavick, and their respective staffs for their help in coordinating the Southern Open this week. A special thanks goes to Irish Creek head golf course superintendent Artie Helton, Salisbury head golf course superintendent Ron Bivens, and their crews for presenting two fantastically conditioned venues for the week, and for putting in extra work in preparing both courses around wet conditions. Finally, a special thanks goes to the members of both Irish Creek and Salisbury for allowing the tour to utilize both clubs for the week. Without their support, the event would not be possible.
• The eGolf Tour moves east next week for the inaugural River Landing Open, a 72-hole event to be contested on July 18-21 at the River Course at River Landing Country Club in Wallace, NC.