June 16, 2013
Charlottesville, Va. - Bruce Woodall of Yanceyville, NC looked like a runaway winner with seven holes to go in the eGolf Tour's Spring Creek Classic, but an errant bunker shot and an untimely double-bogey left his title hopes in doubt. After playing his final six holes in even-par to earn a spot in a sudden-death playoff, Woodall made good on his vast potential, converting a 15-foot birdie on the first extra hole to win his first career tour title and the event's $16,000 first-place prize.
The Spring Creek Classic was the 12th of 24 events in the 2013 eGolf Tour season and was contested this week at Spring Creek Golf Club in Gordonsville, VA.
Afternoon storms during Thursday's second round forced tournament officials to suspend play for over four hours, which in turn pushed the completion of the round into Friday morning.
Woodall, who was the tournament's 18-hole co-leader following a 7-under 65, kept his name atop the 36-hole leaderboard as well, thanks to a 3-under 69 that pushed him to 10-under 134 - one shot clear of final-round playing partners Mikel Martinson of Lubbock, TX and T.J. Howe of Osceola, PA.
Birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 by Martinson set the early pace for what was going to be a wild final round, as one birdie and one bogey in the first five holes by Woodall left the former UVA standout suddenly trailing by one.
"It was a great start by both of us, making birdie there at No. 1. That kind of set the tone for what type of day it turned out to be," said Woodall, 24. "On No. 4, I hit a wedge about as far as I ever have and flew the green. That wound up being a pretty good bogey."
The par-4 sixth was where the tournament first turned in Woodall's favor, as a birdie matched up with a Martinson bogey to create a two-shot swing, in turn leaving Woodall at 11-under par and Martinson just one back.
Woodall, who estimated 15-20 rounds played annually at Spring Creek during his Wahoo years, kept his foot on the gas, posting birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 to turn at 3-under 33 and 13-under overall - at the time one shot clear of Martinson, who had also birdied the par-5 ninth to move to 11-under par.
When Woodall birdied the difficult par-4 10th, the tournament seemed to be his to lose. A birdie miss from 6 feet on the 11th did little to quell the notion that the North Carolina native, but Cavalier for life, was starting straight down the barrel of win No. 1 on his adopted home turf.
"The miss on 11 didn't bother me too much because I had played 8, 9 and 10 so well," said Woodall, who arrived at the tee of the reachable par-5 12th two shots up on Martinson and looking at a docile birdie hole.
With his second shot finding a greenside bunker, and Martinson putting for eagle, Woodall suffered his first real hiccup of the day, blading his bunker shot over the green - an error that led to three-putt, and a brutal double-bogey.
"That was a bad mental mistake on my part," he said. "I knew the sand was thin, and I played the wrong shot, and it got under my skin. I should have re-grouped better than I did."
The double-bogey paired with a Martinson birdie to create a shocking three-shot swing that left the two tied for the lead at 12-under par.
After trading mostly pars over the next five holes, Woodall and Martinson arrived at the tee of the par-5 18th, still tied for the lead at 12-under par.
With both players finding the fairway on the reachable-yet-watery closing hole, Woodall decided to lay well back of the green, while Martinson hit his second into the right rough adjacent to the green.
"I didn't hit a great tee shot there, certainly not my best," said Woodall. "I could have gotten there, but I felt my best chance was to lay back and have a full wedge in for my third. I thought that gave me the best shot at birdie."
Woodall's cautious decision appeared to backfire, as his third wound up a pedestrian 35 feet from the hole - putting for birdie from nearly twice as far away as Martinson, who had chipped his third up to 18 feet.
With a curling left-to-right birdie putt, Woodall's fourth looked to have a chance before diving to the right at the very end, leading to a tap-in par and a final-round 70 - good for a 12-under 204 total.
Martinson, with a putt to win, also made a great effort, nearly holing it for birdie and his first eGolf Tour title, but it barely missed - sending the two back to the tee of the par-5 18th for a sudden death playoff.
"I thought mine had a chance to go in, but his really looked good as well," said Woodall. "The way we both played and fought all day, it was great that we got to go into overtime to see who won. It had been a great round up to that point."
In the playoff, the par-5 18th nearly played out in identical fashion over the first two shots, as Woodall again laid up well short of the green, and Martinson again pushed his second into the rough.
This time, however, Woodall hit his third to 15 feet, while Martinson's pitch came to rest nearly 25 feet from the hole.
First to putt, Martinson's effort never had much of a chance, dying low of the cup before settling roughly 3 feet way for par.
With a chance to capture win No. 1, and local TV cameras looking on, Woodall calmly rolled in a double-breaking birdie putt to earn the win in dramatic fashion.
"I asked my brother (his caddie) what he saw in the putt, and he felt there was nothing there," said Woodall. "I hit a great putt, and it broke two times but stayed straight at the end to go in. It was a great feeling."
The $16,000 payday pushed Woodall's season-long earnings to $44,470, good for first on the eGolf Tour money list.
The win also further solidified a breakthrough season for Woodall, who entered the week at No. 5 on the money list with four consecutive top-10 finishes, and a sturdy four top-5s on the year.
After his first-round 65, Woodall alluded to this being the most consistent golf he had ever played, but still thought it may have fell on deaf ears without a win.
With his win at Spring Creek, people are certainly listening to Woodall's game, as well as his potential.
"This is what we play for, this is what you try to do when you tee it up," he said. "But, all of us are still trying to get to the PGA TOUR, so you can never get complacent. You could win out here 100 times, but there are still so many good players to compete against, that you always have to keep pushing. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."
Recap coutesy eGolf Tour
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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