Over two days and 39 holes, Bob Royak carded 13 birdies on an already demanding Pinetree layout sporting tour-speed greens that gave the field of the Yamaha Georgia Senior Open fits.
Royak needed all 13 to win a playoff against Pinetree member Chris Hall, two of them coming in a 3-hole playoff. The two amateurs tied at 2-under 142. After parring the par-5 ninth – the first playoff hole—they returned to the ninth tee and both made birdie.
The playoff resumed across the street on the par-4 sixth. After both players hit excellent approach shots within birdie range, Royak made his putt after Hall just missed to score his second victory in a Georgia PGA event.
Royak, an Alpharetta resident, won the 2007 Yamaha Atlanta Open and tied for second in the Georgia Senior Open four years ago. Hall had a pair of top-10 finishes in the Georgia Senior Open the previous four years, but was making a serious run at victory in the tournament for the first time.
“I knew I had to make some birdies in the playoff if I was going to come out on top against Chris Hall on his home course,” Royak said.
As for Hall, he took the playoff loss in good spirits after turning in a strong showing in the final round followed by three quality playoff holes.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m as happy as I can be,” a smiling Hall said after his playoff loss. “Getting beat is a lot better than losing.”
Hall, a Marietta resident, had good looks at birdie on all three playoff holes, while Royak had to recover from a miss-hit second shot on the first extra hole.
After driving in the fairway bunker on the dogleg right ninth, Royak caught the lip with his second shot and was left with an uphill third of 195 yards. He responded with what he described as “the best shot I hit in two days,” a 5-iron that wound up pin high about 15 feet from the hole.
Hall had to lay up after hitting his tee shot close to the trees on the right corner, and left himself with a ticklish downhill birdie try from just under 10 feet. Both players just missed, sending the playoff back to the ninth for a second time.
Royak narrowly missed finding the fairway bunker again, and placed his second shot a little short of the green. After driving it past the bunker, Hall hit a low second that scooted through the green, leaving him another demanding putt down the slope, this time for eagle.
After chipping about 12 feet past the cup, Royak trickled his putt into the hole and Hall holed his birdie try from around eight feet on a similar line to the putt Royak had for birdie on the first playoff hole.
The playoff resumed on the sixth, a hole that nearly proved disastrous for Royak earlier in the day. He blocked his tee shot right and out of bounds, making double bogey.
“Don’t think I didn’t think about that,” Royak said of his thought process as he was standing on the sixth tee in the playoff.
This time, he said he “striped” his tee shot, leaving a perfect 9-iron yardage for his approach. His second ended up about seven feet from the hole, and Hall followed with an equally impressive shot, winding up about a foot farther from the pin on the opposite side of the hole. Hall just missed a sharp-breaking putt while Royak again gently rolled his slick downhiller into the cup to cap two days of quality putting on Pinetree’s extremely demanding greens.
Royak had five birdies in an opening round of 1-under 71 that left him in a three-way tie with Roswell amateur Mark Nickerson and former Champions Tour player and three-time tournament champion James Mason, who was looking for his third Georgia Senior Open win in four years. Nickerson and Mason also had five birdies in their opening rounds, with Mason carding four on the back nine along with a bogey on the short but perilous par-5 16th, which proved to be a pivotal hole the next day.
Hall was tied for seventh after an opening 73, with a pair of bogeys on his final four holes costing him a possible share of the lead. He teed off three groups in front of the lead trio in the final round, and quietly moved in to contention, playing his first 15 holes in 1-under before an eagle at the 16th jumped him to the top of the leader board.
After starting his round with seven straight pars, Hall birdied holes 8 and 9 before taking his lone bogey of the day at the par-4 13th. The eagle at 16 gave him a 69, the low round of the tournament.
Royak began his round with bogeys on the first two holes, hitting his tee shot on the par-5 second into the small pond down the right side of the fairway. He birdied the third after an excellent approach shot, but fell to 3-over for the day when he double bogeyed the sixth after his errant drive. He bounced right back with birdies at 7 and 8, and added another when he hit the par-5 11th in two.
Following a bogey at the 13th, Royak again came right back with a birdie at the short par-4 14th, holing another super-quick downhill putt after hitting his approach within six feet. He made a terrific par save on the 15th after driving into the right trees, hitting a beautiful uphill pitch from a tight lie near a tree and holing a clutch putt.
Royak hit the 16th in two and two-putted for birdie, and had a birdie look at the 17th before making par on Pinetree’s difficult par-4 finishing hole for a second straight 71.
Veteran tour player Paul Claxton finished as low pro and was third overall at 144 after three birdies and a 33 on the his final nine gave him a 71 the second day. Claxton was looking for a Georgia Open/Senior Open double after winning the Georgia Open in Savannah last summer. With the course in his home town of Vidalia where he was head pro the past few years having shut down, Claxton has been playing in Monday qualifiers on the Champions Tour, and has made it into two events this season.
Mason tied for fourth at 145 after closing with a 74. He played the Champions Tour for a dozen years after winning as a Monday qualifier, and was shooting for a third Georgia Open title the last four years, and his fourth overall. He got a bad break on the first hole when his tee shot rolled through the fairway and out of bounds, resulting in a double bogey. Mason, who plays out of the Orchard in Clarkesville, reached the par-5 second in two for birdie, but his only other birdie of the day came on the 16th, which he also reached in two and had a good look at eagle.
Claxton collected $2,500 as low pro and Mason earned $1,700.
Also tying for fourth at 145 was Roswell amateur Billy Mitchell, who won the Yamaha Georgia Senior Open in a playoff at Chattahoochee two years ago. Mitchell shot 72 the first day along with fellow amateurs Mike Combs, also from Roswell, and Bryan Hancock of Hoschton.
Mitchell and Hancock were the two main contenders for much of the final round, with both shooting 2-under 34 on the opening nine to share the lead at that point. Both players had three birdies on the outward nine, with Mitchell taking advantage of three of the more vulnerable holes at Pinetree – the par-5 second and a pair of short par 4s (5 and 7). Hancock birdied two of the tougher holes, the par-3 fourth and par-4 sixth, before pulling even with Mitchell with a birdie at the ninth.
Hancock fell out of the tie when he bogeyed the 10th, but matched Mitchell’s birdie at the par-5 11th. After becoming the only player to get to 3-under for the tournament during the final round, Mitchell bogeyed the par-3 12th. Hancock lost his share of the lead when he bogeyed the short, par-4 14th, and he and Mitchell arrived at the 16th shortly after Hall eagled the hole to move to 2-under.
Both Mitchell and Hancock found the hazard just left of the green and wound up with double bogeys, knocking both out of contention. Mitchell shot 73 to tie Mason for fourth at 145 and Hancock closed with a 74 to tie for sixth at 146 with amateur Scotty Scott of Hoschton, teaching pros Danny Elkins of Georgia Golf Center and three-time tournament champion Craig Stevens of Woodmont.
Scott was 3-under for the day and even for the tournament after 11 holes before bogeys at 15 and 16 left him with a 71. Elkins birdied three of the four par 5s plus the difficult 18th for a 70. Stevens closed with a 72.
Tying for 10th at 147 was Griffin Golf Course head pro Charlie King, who shot 70 the second day with five birdies, and veteran tour pro Sonny Skinner, who shot 33 on the back nine with an eagle at the 16th for a 71.
Amateur Don Marsh of Johns Creek won the Super Senior division with scores of 73-73—146. Tying for second and low pro at 147 was Chuck Little and Bill Johnstone. Little shot 71 in the final round.