Takes playoff over Skinner at Chicopee Woods
After 7 ½ years playing on mini-tours throughout the Southeast, Kyle Owen made the decision to join the club professional ranks, and has been competing in Georgia PGA events since the mid-2000s.
Owen, an assistant at Dunwoody Country Club since 2010, enjoyed some success as a tour pro, winning four times. Among his victories was one on the Hooters Tour, where he defeated fellow Georgian Vaughn Taylor, a PGA Tour veteran who has competed on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, in a playoff.
After a few strong showings in Georgia PGA events in 2007, Owen played a limited schedule for several years due to injury, family considerations and job responsibilities, but has emerged the past few years as a consistent contender in Section events.
Owen notched three top-10 finishes in points events in 2011 and was near the top of the leader board almost every time he played last year.
But Owen was unable to turn any of those close calls into victories, with a decade having passed since his last win at the mini-tour level in 2003.
Despite going more than a decade without a tournament title, Owen did not completely forget how to win. He scored his first Georgia PGA victory in the recent Chicopee Woods Players Championship, defeating long-time tour player Sonny Skinner on the first playoff hole.
“It’s nice to finally win one. It’s been a while,” Owen said. “It took too long to happen, but it finally did. Now that I have the monkey off my back, maybe there will be a lot more to come.”
Owen led the 36-hole tournament after the first round, with his 4-under 68 one ahead of Skinner, Russ Davis and Clark Spratlin, who won the tournament two of the last three years. Owen and Davis finished one shot behind Spratlin last year, with Davis losing a playoff in 2008, the first year the tournament was held. Skinner was runner-up the next year and has a string of top finishes in the event.
“That was stress-free for a 68,” Owen said of his opening round. He missed only one green, did not make a bogey and his only slip was a three-putt par on a par 5.
Owen continued his excellent tee-to-green play the next day, but settled for a 72 due primarily to his difficulty at holing putts on Chicopee Woods’ subtle greens. Owen was not alone in that regard in the final round, as the low score of the day was a 70.
Both Owen and Skinner finished at 4-under 140, with Owen shooting 72 in the final round and Skinner 71. Davis, the Director of Instruction at Cherokee Town & Country Club, was 3rd at 142 after a 73, making a bogey on the par-5 18th.
The front nine was mostly uneventful for the contenders the final day, with Owen’s 1-under 35 giving him a 2-shot lead over playing partners Davis and Mike Alread at the turn. Davis stayed close to the lead the entire back nine, while Alread, the head pro at Stone Mountain Golf Club, hung close until three bogeys in a four-hole stretch late in the round.
Owen’s first bogey of the tournament came on the short, par-4 11th, where he “laid the sod over it. From 120 yards I came up 20 yards short.”
The bogey cut Owen’s lead to one over Alread, who birdied the hole. Owen had a chance to extend his lead, but missed from inside five feet after a superb tee shot on the par-3 13th. He came back with a birdie at the par-5 14th, but Skinner made a move, holing birdie putts at 12, 14 and 16 to move within one of the lead along with Davis, who carded back-to-back birdies at 14 and the tough 15th.
Owen missed two more short putts at 16 and 17 to drop back into a tie with Skinner, with Davis three-putting the 16th to fall one off the lead. Owen’s only errant drive of the day at the 16th forced him to pitch out from the trees and he was unable to save par. He missed again from close range at the 17th after another outstanding tee shot on a par 3.
Both Skinner and Owen hit their second shots to the 18th into the left greenside bunker. Skinner had a good look at birdie after an excellent sand shot, but missed. Owen came up short with his third, and needed a 5-footer to save par and force a playoff.
After both players elected to lay up with their second shots in the playoff, Skinner’s third to a front pin came up just short and rolled down the bank into the hazard fronting the green. Owen put his third safely into the middle of the green and two-putted for a winning par.
“For two days, that was as good as I‘ve hit the ball in a while,” Owen said. “I could have putted better, but I made the putts when I needed to. That was a big putt on 18, I needed to make it to get a little momentum going to the playoff.
“If I had missed that after the short misses on 16 and 17, it would have been a long ride back home.”
Skinner had an even longer ride from Gainesville to the Atlanta airport to catch a plane to Michigan after getting a late spot in the PGA Senior Championship, which began two days after the tournament at Chicopee Woods ended. Skinner made it to Michigan the previous week to get in some practice time on the course, enabling him to make a late arrival for the event.
Owen remembers what that life was like, and is happy to have put the tour pro lifestyle behind him.
“I’ve played competitive golf a long time, but golf is not the most important thing in the world to me any more. Fifteen years ago, that would have been different.”
Tim Weinhart, also a past tournament champion, tied for 4th at 143 with a final round 71.Weinhart, an instructor at the Standard Club, tied with Peter Jones, an assistant at Cherokee, and Jason James, an assistant at Chicopee Woods.
Weinhart was 2-under after five holes, but after a bogey at the seventh parred his last 11 holes. Jones made a late move with birdies at 13. 14 and 16 for a 72, while James had seven birdies on his card, as he matched the low round of the day with a 70.
Also shooting 70 was Country Club of the South Director of Instruction Shawn Koch, who had three birdies and an eagle in his 2-under round.
Alread tied for 7th at 144 with Champions Retreat head pro John Wade, Canongate-on-White Oak instructor Brandon Lovelady and Towne Lake Hills instructor Bill Murchison.
Spratlin, the Director of Golf at Currahee Club, was close to the lead until consecutive bogeys at 14, 15 and 16, and tied for 11th at 145 with Chicopee Woods pros Jeff Frasier and Greg Lee.
The tournament was played on the Village and School nines at the 27-hole facility, and was played under its fourth different format over the last four years.
After four years as a two-day, 54-hole event, the Chicopee Woods Players Championship was reduced to one day and 27 holes in 2012. The tournament was played over 18 holes last year before adding a second day this year.