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Watkins Beats Stone for Utah PGA Match Play Title
Battling wet weather and a strong field, Troy Watkins became the 2011 Utah Section PGA Match Play champion with a 1 up victory over Pete Stone at Hubbard Golf Course on the Hill Air Force Base.
After an early morning hour-long rain delay, Watkins and Stone teed off in the championship match with a cold overcast sky and, according to the radar, about a three hour block of time, before the next steady rain would fall.
Watkins jump to an early lead by winning the first two holes with a birdie and par on the 7,137-yard set up. Over the next six holes the match turned in favor of the former Utah Open champion, Stone. On holes 3 through 8, Stone had three birdies and two pars while Watkins made pars and a couple of bogies to put the match 2-up in favor of Stone.
Stone’s drives and putting seem to take control of the match until an errant tee shot on 9 left him under the trees down the right side of the fairway. His punch-out approach shot came up short of the green and when he missed his par putt, his lead was 1 up at the turn.
Watkins squared the match on 10 with a birdie but Stone took the lead right back again 11 when Watkins experienced his own tree trouble and conceded Stone’s birdie putt.
The next three holes, 12-14 were halved with two birdies and a par for each player. The birdies at the par 4, 14th might have been a turning point for both players. Stone’s approach shot came to rest two feet from the hole but Watkins matched Stone’s tap-in birdie with a birdie of his own from 15 feet, preventing Stone from going 2 up.
“The putt on 14 was a key putt in the match in my mind,” said Watkins. “If I let him go 2 up there, I might not have had enough holes to catch him.”
The next big putt in Watkins favor came courtesy of Stone. The par 5, 15th hole is guarded by a left edge, green-side bunker. Stone’s second shot found the bunker while Watkins was safely on but 60 plus feet from the hole. Stone’s bunker shot was executed well but he missed his birdie putt while Watkins walked off with a two putt birdie. The match was all square going into the par 3, 17th.
While both players were safely on the green in regulation, putting once again became a deciding factor as Stone had a much longer putt being 25 feet above the hole. The soggy green, after taking all it could from the week long rain storms, may have played a significant role on the next three strokes. A small trough through the middle of the green which played along Stone’s line and across Watkins’ line made it tough to decide on the correct speed for each player.
“I had the same putt in my match yesterday with Shawn Edwards,” explained Watkins. “I knew it was slow but still didn’t hit it hard enough today and I missed my birdie there.” Watkins tapped in for par.
Stone’s putt through the trough proved a bit more puzzling and he left his birdie putt well short. Stone also missed his six foot par putt and the match swung in Watkins favor one 1up.
Both players halved the final hole with pars and Troy Watkins walked off with his biggest win as a Utah golf professional, as the winner of the 2011 Utah Section PGA Match Play Championship.
“If my par putt there was any longer, I am sure I would have missed it,” said Watkins of his winning putt. “I told myself to breath, calm down and remember that this is the reason for all those practice hours. My legs were shaking but I made the putt.”
Hubbard Golf Course Head Professional Tony Angelico gave a lot of praise to the course’s staff. “The golf course held help really well under this week’s playing conditions. We are happy to have hosted this prestigious Utah golf event.”