By Murray Evans
KINGSTON – Colton Staggs of Tulsa authored a near-perfect ending to his amateur career on Wednesday at Chickasaw Pointe Golf Club.
Staggs seized control of the Oklahoma Golf Association’s Stroke Play Championship during a four-hole stretch on the back nine, pulling away for a three-shot win over Oklahoma Christian University senior Sam Johnston to take home the tournament’s gargantuan trophy for the second straight year.
The former University of Tulsa standout shot a 2-under-par 70 on the 7,085-yard Chickasaw Pointe layout, good for a three-round score of 7-under 209. Johnston shot a final-round 73 to finish at 212 and was eight shots ahead of third-place finishers Garrison Mendoza of Clinton and Conrad Walcher of Oklahoma City.
Staggs won’t have much time to savor the win. Immediately after the award ceremony in the clubhouse overlooking Lake Texoma, he began the long drive to Garden City, Kan., where he will begin his professional career in an Adams Tour event on Friday.
"I have a practice round tomorrow, eight hours away from here," Staggs said. "I don’t even know what course. This is my last amateur event. I might come back if I don’t make it as a pro, but for now, it’s my last amateur event and I’m excited for the future."
Staggs, who won the 2014 OGA Stroke Play Championship at Shangri-La Resort on Monkey Island, hasn’t been playing every day while attending summer school at TU, but it was hard to tell from the three under-par rounds he posted this week.
"This was my first real tournament I’ve played all summer," he said. "It was a little nerve-wracking coming down the stretch, but that experience from last year did help."
Johnston, a two-time NCAA Division II All-American at OC who was the low mid-amateur and finished 12th in the prestigious Trans-Mississippi Championship last month, began the day tied with Staggs atop the leaderboard at 5-under. Johnston took the lead with a birdie at No. 1, but gave it back with a double bogey at No. 2, while Staggs bogeyed to pull even.
Johnston birdied No. 3 to go back ahead, but Staggs answered with a birdie at No. 4 to again tie, then parred No. 5 while Johnston bogeyed. Staggs wouldn’t trail again.
Staggs hit a 30-foot eagle putt on No. 7 to extend his lead to three shots, but followed with an errant 8-iron into the deep rough behind and below the green on No. 8. He was fortunate to salvage a double bogey, while Johnston parred to pull back within one.
"It was an up-and-down day emotionally with my play," Staggs said.
Staggs’ approach shots were the difference during the key four-hole stretch on the back nine, starting at No. 12. He picked up a shot on Johnston on each of those holes, consistently hitting closer to the pin than did Johnston.
At No. 12, Staggs was way left with his tee shot while Johnston was way right, but being a lefty, Staggs was able to get his next shot to the green, while Johnston had to play it safe and punch it across the fairway for a better angle to the green. Staggs hit a 6-foot birdie putt after Johnston left an 8-foot birdie attempt short.
"I had a really simple up-and-down and just couldn’t do it," Johnston said. "Sometimes that’s just how it goes."
Johnston bogeyed No. 13 after sailing his tee shot over the green and failing to navigate a difficult downhill putt for par, and Staggs parred to take a three-shot lead. Staggs birdied No. 14 to make it a four-shot lead and extended his advantage to five with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 15.
"The wedge game was on point today," Staggs said. "That was what helped me. I drove it really good all week, hit it great, and my wedges were really on today. That’s how I got a lot of birdies.
"I got some breaks and he didn’t," Staggs said. "That’s how golf goes when you’re winning."
Staggs bogeyed two of the final three holes, allowing Johnston to close the gap to three, but Staggs still won comfortably.
"He hit a lot of shots close and converted them all," Johnston said. "I struggled on the front nine. I had a couple of sloppy holes on the front. I played OK on the back, but I couldn’t convert any of the birdie opportunities."
Oklahoma Golf AssociationStroke Play Championship
August 3-5, 2015
Chickasaw Pointe Golf Club
Colton Staggs, Tulsa, Okla. – 71-68-70–209
Sam Johnston, Edmond, Okla. – 70-69-73–212
Garrison Mendoza, Clinton, Okla. – 70-74-76–220
Conrad Walcher, Oklahoma City, Okla. – 70-71-79–220
Eli Armstrong, Edmond , Okla. – 68-74-79–221
Mason Horner, Argyle, Texas – 76-68-77–221
Anthony Marchesani, Oklahoma City, Okla. – 76-71-75–222
Quade Cummins, Weatherford, Okla. – 71-76-76–223
Michael Upp, Frisco, Texas – 74-74-76–224
Scott Verplank, Edmond, Okla. – 76-74-75–225
Cody Burrows, Chickasha, Okla. – 71-76-78–225
Brody King, Tulsa, Okla. – 75-76-75–226
Dalton Rhoden, Ft. Gibson, Okla. – 77-78-71–226
Sam Humphreys, Edmond, Okla. – 75-76-78–229
Cory Montgomery, Oklahoma City, Okla. – 73-77-79–229
Jacob Bishop, Edmond, Okla. – 74-81-74–229
Brandon Strathe, Owasso, Okla. – 77-79-74–230
Brandon Stephenson, Edmond, Okla. – 77-79-75–231
Ryan Roberts, Edmond, Okla. – 81-73-79–233
Preston Walker, Tulsa, Okla. – 81-73-79–233
Cole Goekeler, Tulsa, Okla. – 74-80-80–234
Jared Strathe, Owasso, Okla. – 80-75-80–235
Russ Purser, Edmond, Okla. – 73-72-91–236
Michael Hampton, Edmond, Okla. – 71-81-84–236
Cameron Hamilton, Broken Arrow, Okla. – 72-80-84–236
Wesley Jackson, Fort Gibson, Okla. – 74-81-82–237
Jordan Bates, Ada, Okla. – 75-79-84–238
Aaron Davis, Tulsa, Okla. – 77-73-89–239
Jackson Stuteville, Durant, Okla. – 78-78-83–239
McCain Schellhardt, Edmond, Okla. – 77-78-84–239
Brady Richardson, Tulsa, Okla. – 77-76-WD–WD