INDIANAPOLIS, IN (June 29, 2006) -- Jeff Smith emerged as champion of the 106th Indiana Amateur Championship after a three hole sudden-death playoff against the three round leader, Chris Clemens.
On a day when the best Indiana golfers fought the slick greens and abundant trees of Broadmoor CC, Jeff Smith, Indianapolis, quietly played consistent golf and emerged the victor over the golf course and his good friend, Chris Clemens of Beech Grove, after a three hole sudden-death playoff. The 106th Indiana Amateur Champion, Smith, attributed his day to a lot of luck, but as any golfer knows, luck is part of the story, but not the entire story.
The day began with the final group consisting of Michael Williams, Indianapolis, Stephen Ford, Indianapolis and Clemens. Right in front of that group were Smith, Nick Gillaspy, Spencer, and Andrew Varner of Marion. The third group that warranted watching during the day was the group of C.D. Hockersmith, Richmond, Erik Barnes, Marion and Andy Winings of Brownstown.
Smith played the game he does so well, right down the middle of the fairway, getting pars when he could, an occasional birdie or bogey, but playing steady golf. Smith commented that he could “probably count on one hand the number of fairways missed,” over the four days of stroke play.
The undulating greens firmed up today in the sun and slight breeze becoming problematic for most of the field. In anticipation of potential putting difficulties, Smith asked long-time friend and one of the top Indiana amateurs, Pete Wojtowicz, to caddy for him during the final round to help him read the greens. “That is what he does so well on these kind of greens,” stated Smith. “He also kept me calm. Without him I wouldn’t be here (as winner).”
The highlight of today’s regulation round for Smith came on the 18th hole. He hit a four iron from 203 yards out on the long par four. “I knew as soon as I hit it that it was pure.” It barely missed the hole for an eagle, leaving a 10- inch tap in birdie to go to plus 6 for the day, and for what eventually meant a tie with Clemens.
Meanwhile, Clemens did not mange to have the stress-free round he was hopping for. Instead, after par on the first hole, Clemens tripled the second after driving the ball under another pine and taking an unplayable lie. A three-putt on the third and additional bogies on #5, #6 and #7 left him at plus five after nine holes.
A birdie on #10 seemed the beginning of a turn-around, but it did not materialize as he continued to have difficulty finding the fairway. Clemens finished the day with a 78 to tie Smith at plus 6 for the tournament.
A sudden death playoff is an unusual event for the Championship. Since converting to stroke play in 1973, the only other playoff occurred in 2000 when Chad Collins and Terry Werner played one extra hole at Country Club of Indianapolis to determine Collins as the winner. The 106th Championship now holds the record for the longest play-off, at three holes.
Both players bogeyed #1 when Clemens had to hit a left-handed punch shot from the base of a tree, and Smith’s near perfect drive found a pitch mark and was sitting half submerged in the turf. After Clemens’ third shot found the greenside bunker, he blasted out and the ball rolled sideways to about 30 feet. Smith putted from just off the green, but needed two more to get home after Clemens rammed his 30-footer in for a five.
Both players had par on #2. But the third hole found Clemens in the trees once again, and Smith in the middle of the fairway. Smith found himself at the perfect distance for a gap wedge at 93 yards, while Clemens chipped out to the fairway, then overshot the green on his approach. Two putts gave Smith the title, and the two friends seemed relieved the play-off was over.
During the regulation 18 holes, at least five other contenders presented themselves as potential champions. Andy Winings, who finished in a tie for third place, was even par for the day after nine holes, but carded three bogies on the back to finish with a 73. His bogey on #18 took him out of playoff contention.
Tim Cobb walked away as another third place finisher after shooting four rounds of 75/68/73/71 for a seven over score of 287.
Nick Gillaspy, playing with Smith, got off to a rough start on the first hole, but turned it around to finish the front nine with a –1 score of 34 and a place on the leader board. But bogies on the last five holes left him also tied for third place.
Clemens summed up the Indiana Amateur Championship experience by stating, “ If I had to lose to someone, I am glad it was Jeff. He is a good friend and I enjoyed playing with him.” In my book, all the players are winners, gentlemen and darn good golfers!
For complete results, click on the tournament link above.