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Better Late Than Never, Says Open Champ Wingerd

July 17, 2007

By John Stewart, Maryland State Golf Association 

Billy Wingerd never had sole possession of the lead in the 86th Maryland Open until his final putt dropped on the 18th green at Chartwell Country Club. It capped a stunning birdie-birdie finish and left a shocked Chip Sullivan, the defending champion, in second place.

Wingerd, 24, from Baltimore and Mount Pleasant Golf Course, used the low round of the tournament, a 6-under-par 65, to collect his first victory in a two-year pro career, along with a check for $8,100. He finished 68-70-65--203 to 67-68-69--204 for Sullivan. 

Billy Wingerd (right) is presented with the Maryland Open trophy by MSGA President Bob Sherwood.  (MSGA)

Sullivan, the 42-year-old pro from Ashley Plantation outside of Roanoke, Va., was seeking his third title in the last six years and fourth overall. In Wingerd's only previous showing in the event, he missed the cut in 2002 at Bulle Rock, where Sullivan was the winner.

It appeared this one was all but over when Wingerd produced his only bogey of the round, missing the green and failing to save par at the 16th hole. After more than matching Sullivan during the morning, he was now two behind with two holes to play . But not for long. 

At the 199-yard 17th, Wingerd struck a 5-iron shot to 15 feet and made the putt. "I needed to get back that lost shot so I knew I needed to make that putt," he said later. A Sullivan par left him one in front.

Wingerd had 150 yards left for his second shot at the 463-yard finishing hole and hit an 8-iron shot to 12 feet. Sullivan wound up in the heavy rough left of the green and pitched to 13 feet, just outside Wingerd's marker. When the pace-setter could not coax the par putt to fall, it meant all the difference in the world to Wingerd.

 "I was pumped and nervous all at the same time, but when he missed, I knew I wasn't going to three-putt, and I  was in a playoff, if nothing else," Wingerd said.  It turned out to be something else when he rolled his putt into the cup.  

How good was Wingerd's round? At the end of No. 9, Wingerd had made up two-thirds of a three-stroke deficit, turning in 34 to Sullivan's par 36. Each birdied the 10th and the 12th (Par-5s). Sullivan restored the two-stroke difference with a birdie at the par-3 13th, where his putt was longer than Wingerd's and the latter missed. The challenger got that one back with a 9-iron shot to within a foot at the 15th.

Wingerd missed several short birdie putts in the early going, but told himself he had to start making those -- and he did, including birdie efforts from 20 feet and 30 feet. Perhaps the most important putt, however, was a 20-footer to save par at the eighth after a wedge from the greenside rough barely made the green. It enabled him to hold the round together.

"I've been working hard on my game, and to have it all come together here -- it was awesome," Wingerd said.

Wingerd, who tore up the Maryland area in general and the Baltimore area in particular in the early years of this decade, earned titles in the MSGA Amateur and Maryland Amateur Stroke Play. In one stretch, he qualified for five successive USGA championships in Amateur and Amateur Public Links events.


There was a three-way tie for low amateur at 211, and Jason Occi, a University of Maryland senior from Clarksville and Cattail Creek Country Club, won a playoff to take home the honors.

Issue 2.29: July 19, 2007