West Lake Country Club cornered the market on golf excitement in Columbia County last week.
First, there was a three-way battle for a major state amateur title, which concluded Friday afternoon with an unlikely winner. On Saturday, three thrilling shots by club members also beat the odds.
Tom Reid putts on No. 17 at West Lake County Club during the Georgia State Golf Association 2001 Senior Championship. Reid won.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
From Wednesday through Friday, the private club played host to the Georgia State Golf Association 2001 Senior Championship, a 54-hole event for amateurs ages 55 and older featuring a 144-player field.
Tom Reid, Bill Ploeger and Spencer Sappington staged a back-nine duel Friday in Martinez, with the 58-year-old Reid taking the Johnny A. Skeadas trophy with a three-day total of 2-under 214. Ploeger and Sappington tied for second place, one stroke back.
Ploeger, a three-time GSGA Senior Champion and the 1999 United States Senior Amateur champ, carried a two-shot lead over Sappington into the final round. Sappington has 140 tournament victories to his credit, including the 1998 GSGA Match Play championship.
But Reid upstaged his more-heralded playing companions at West Lake. The 58-year-old from Macon hit long drives, precise irons and holed several key putts on the back nine to hold off Sappington and Ploeger.
Sappington, 58, tied Reid for the lead with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17, but the Alpharetta native found the water hazard on No. 18 and made a bogey to finish with a 74.
''The lie was OK. I hadn't had any experience with that club. I just put a new shaft in that club this morning, and I didn't know what it was going to do,'' Sappington said of the offending 3-wood which sent the ball into the water from 228 yards out.
After Sappington's shot, Reid chose to play his second shot on the Par 5 closing hole short of the pond. He then wedged his third on the green and two putted for the title-clinching par.
''When Spencer hit it in the water I was real comfortable,'' Reid said. ''I have a lot of adrenalin and have to try and not get too excited. I thought that was what I was able to do on that last hole.''
Meanwhile, Columbus resident Ploeger could not get his putter to cooperate Friday, and he closed with a 76. When the 61-year-old finally made a birdie putt on No. 18, it was not enough to catch Reid.
''I was really emotional because this is the biggest tournament I've ever won,'' Reid said after firing a final-round 71. ''Bill's the best senior player; he just didn't have a very good day putting the ball. I was fortunate and a few of mine went in. It was real exciting.''
During the Senior Championship, West Lake was closed to member play, but when the course reopened for the regulars, the real fireworks began.
West Lake members Bill McKettrick, Mike Kerbelis and Dave Spencer - all playing in the same group - each recorded a hole in one during a Saturday round.
McKettrick broke the ice with an ace on No. 8 by holing a 7-iron shot from 147 yards. Obviously, 7-iron was the club - Kerbelis used the same stick to hole out on No. 8, which featured a front-left flag placement.
Spencer completed the incredible three-feat on No. 17. He hit an 8-iron on the 149-yard hole, and watched it drop on an ''aces wild'' day at West Lake.
''All three shots were perfect shots. There was no fluke to it, '' said Mike O'Grady, who filled out the foursome. ''It was fun to watch. I was probably more excited than anybody in the group, but I have been bombarded by people asking, 'What's wrong with you?'''
Kerbelis finished the day with a 4-under 68 to lead his group.
While O'Grady was the only player in the foursome to not notch an ace, he did play the four Par 3 holes 1-under-par, which matched Kerbelis, McKettrick and Spencer.
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