The 18th hole at The Territory Golf & Country Club, softened by a rare morning rain, was playing 400 yards uphill into the teeth of a 25 mph wind. It was all John Stansbury could do to reach the green in two shots, but he managed to do it and somehow two-putt from 60 feet for a par. Twice.
The first one pulled him even with defending champion Kirk Wright of Oklahoma City in the championship match of the Oklahoma Golf Association Senior State Amateur Thursday. The second one gave him the one up victory on the first playoff hole.
Wright had taken the lead when Stansbury hit his ball in a hazard on the par-4 16th and both players bogeyed the par-3 17th. Wright was short on his second shot into 18 in regulation and in a green side bunker in the playoff and could not get up-and-down for par either time.
"It was 15 holes of great golf and then we met the tiger," said Stansbury, who won in his first attempt at an OGA senior title. "When we started it was fairly calm but it was howling at the end and we were holding on for dear life."
Stansbury, a member of Oak Tree National, moved from Michigan to Hong Kong while working for Whirlpool in 1995 and then to England in 1998, where he was a member of the prestigious Sunningdale Golf Club, ranked 33 in the world by Golf Magazine, with 18 holes designed by Willie Park Jr. and 18 by Harry Colt. He said The Territory, designed by Tulsan Randy Heckenkemper, matched or exceeded the quality of courses he’s found worldwide.
"I’ve played in every continent except Africa and I was very, very impressed with The Terriotry," he said. "I thought the shot values were excellent. The greens were consistent in terms of texture and speed. I’ve heard about the drought they’ve faced and I thought it was in wonderful condition. I really want to credit Tim (Johnson) and the superintendent and his staff."
Stansbury trailed early but took a one-up lead on the fourth hole and kept the advantage through 10. Wright regained the lead with a par on the par-3 13th hole and looked in good position to go two up on 14 when Stansbury left his second shot short and then faced a tricky 6-foot hard-breaking par putt. But he coaxed it in, then Wright missed a four-foot par putt and it was even again.
"That hole could have easily went the other way and if I go two down there, it’s probably over," Stansbury said. "That was a big hole for me. That gave me a shot."
Wright, meanwhile, was frustrated with himself for not taking advantage of his opportunities late. He needed only to two-putt from 30 feet on 17 to win the match but left his first putt 5 feet short and missed it. Both second shots on 18 left him in bad spots.
"It was a good match and he’s a heck of a nice guy," said Wright, who has played in the tournament twice now, winning once and reaching the finals the second time. "Once I get over being mad at myself for not finishing the way I should have, I’ll be fine. You’ve got to realize that that’s golf. It happens."
Stansbury grew up in Illinois and played collegiate golf at Southern Methodist where he had Payne Stewart for a teammate and competed in tournaments with the likes of Fred Couples and Bill Kratzert. Stewart convinced him his future was not in professional golf by beating him by two or three shots consistently in practice sessions.
He ranked the Senior State Amateur with two previous tournaments as the most gratifying of his golf career. He won the Sunningdale Foursomes by teaming with Walker Cupper Stiggy Hodgson and, in 1978, finished runner-up in the prestigious Chicago District Amateur against top amateurs from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.
Oklahoma Golf Association
Senior State Amateur Championship
June 16-19, 2014
The Territory Golf & Country Club
Match Play Results
John Stansbury, Edmond, Oklahoma (7) def. Kirk Wright, Oklahoma City, Okla. (1), 19 holes