06/04/07 — WCMA - Sutton takes Open Division

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WCMA - Sutton takes Open Division

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 4, 2007 1:50 PM

Wringing wet from a late-afternoon shower, Lionel Sutton wiped his sweat-stained brow and adjusted his hat. Light raindrops fell as Sutton posed for the cameras, which flashed brightly on an overcast afternoon.

Sutton picked up his towel and headed back to the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course clubhouse as the Wayne County Men's Amateur Open Division champion. He stopped momentarily to receive congratulations from tournament organizers and playing partners.

Appreciative of the acknowledgment, Sutton felt like he could have played better. The statement almost seemed ludicrous after the former mini-tour player posted his best round -- a 2-under 69 -- on the final day of three-day tournament.

"To be honest with you, I didn't play that well," said Sutton. "I scrambled around ... hit one really good shot, then I'd hit some ugly ones because my swing is not that great.

"But I got it done and that's all that matters."

Sutton finished with a 54-hole score of 3-under 211, including sub-par rounds at Southern Wayne and GMGC. The Open Division runner-up in 1999, Sutton regained his amateur status a year ago after playing several stops on the Hooter's, Tarheel and Atlantic Coast tours.

Bill Brewer and John Newsome joined Sutton for the champions picture. Brewer, who played at Wake Forest, dominated the Senior field with a three-day, tournament-record 8-under 206. He bested 2006 champion and playing partner John Zambelli by a whopping 10 strokes.

"It was a lot of fun and felt mighty good," said Brewer, who missed just two greens in 54 holes. "It just a matter of keeping it in the treelines, keep it in play and get the ball on the green.

"I didn't want to get too aggressive on the putts."

Newsome emerged the first WCMA competitor to claim three consecutive titles in any division since the tournament began in 1999. Newsome three-peated as the Super Senior champ with a four-stroke victory over Charlie Waters. The two entered the final round tied at 145, but Newsome carded an 18-hole score of 3-over 74, while Waters turned in a 7-over 78.

A small gallery, which grew by one or two spectators each hole, obliged Sutton and his playing partners -- Jonathan Burke and Jonathan Greene -- with a smattering of applause after a well-placed fairway shot or solid putt on the green.

Sutton drew most of the cheers with three birdies on the first four holes, which gave him a two-stroke edge. Burke posted one birdie during that stretch, while Greene parred each hole.

"He came out on fire and that really set the tone for us," said Greene, a rising junior at Mount Olive College. "We were battling from there. It was hard to catch up."

Sutton made the turn at 3-under with Burke two strokes behind and Greene three shots back. Greene hit solid shots from the tees and fairways, but left himself with long putts on nearly every green. He saved par on six holes.

"I couldn't get the speed right because we've been playing on slower greens the last two days," said Greene. "I hit them all on line, but they didn't fall. That's golf."

Burke began to fade after a double-bogey on No. 18.

"That got to me," said Burke. "I missed some short putts that I normally make and that got to me, too. I made some dumb mistakes ... went for some shots I probably should have laid back on.

"I hit the ball fine, but just didn't score."

Sutton bogeyed the par-4 No. 2, which gave Greene and Burke one last glimmer of hope with six holes to play. The trio concluded the round in a torrential downpour which further soaked an already-wet course.

Greene missed an eagle putt on No. 6 and settled for birdie. He three-putted on the par-3 No. 7 and bogeyed No. 8 after hitting into the hazard. Burke hit into the water on No. 8 and saw his chances of three-peating as the Open champion wash away.

The No. 9 hole flag leaning on his shoulder, Burke shook his head and rubbed the ball as Sutton drained a par putt to win the title. Greene gathered his clubs and shook his hands.

The drenched trio received applause as they trudged up the slope toward the clubhouse.

"I think I put a little too much pressure on myself because I really wanted to win this," said Greene, the second-day leader. "I just didn't hit the ball solid like I normally do."

Greene finished with a even-par 214 over 54 holes, while Burke fashioned a 2-over 216.