Thompson Claims Third Career eGolf Tour Title with Flawless Final-Round 65 at Ballantyne
By Stewart Moore
Charlotte, NC – Chris Thompson of Lawrence, KS entered the final-round of the weather-shortened Championship at Ballantyne Country Club on Thursday knowing he needed some magic in order to pick up his third career eGolf Tour title. The former Web.com Tour member and Kansas Jayhawk star more than delivered, posting seven birdies en route to a bogey-free 65 and a 36-hole total of 11-under 133, good for a two-shot victory and the event’s $17,000 first-place prize.
The Championship at Ballantyne Country Club was the fourth of 24 scheduled events on the 2013 eGolf Tour schedule, and was contested this week at Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte, NC.
The week began with a seven-hour delay preceding Tuesday’s opening round, as heavy overnight and morning rain left the golf course unplayable until 3 PM in the afternoon. The extended delay pushed the completion of the first round into Wednesday afternoon, which in turn forced officials to reduce the event to 36 holes.
With only a handful of groups able to complete two rounds by late Wednesday night, second-round play resumed at 10 AM (after a one-hour frost delay) on Thursday morning, with players in the early wave returning to their holes from the night before, and players in the late wave teeing off accordingly thereafter.
Thompson entered Thursday’s final round trailing overnight leader Chris Epperson of Hilton Head Island, SC by five shots after posting a first-round 68 – 16 holes of which were played on Tuesday, with the other two being wrapped up on Wednesday morning.
Epperson, arguably the best player on the eGolf Tour without a victory, finished his 36 holes just before darkness set in on Wednesday night, notching rounds of 69-66—135 to set the overnight pace at 9-under par.
“I knew entering the day that I had to at least get to 9-under to have a chance, but a lot of it depended on what Brent (Witcher) was doing,” said Thompson of the tournament’s 18-hole leader. “I felt like, if I could get off to a solid start, there would be some birdie holes once I made the turn.”
Thompson began his final round on the back nine of the Rees Jones-designed course, posting pars on his first four holes to remain at 4-under for the week. A late surge of birdies on Nos. 14, 16 and 18 vaulted him to 7-under par, at the time just two back of Epperson’s lead.
“It was big for me to get that birdie at 18 because that set me up for the front nine,” said the 36-year-old Thompson.
Chris EppersonThe front nine is where the former Jayhawk “All American” went to work, as birdies at the par-4 first and the par-4 second took him to 9-under par, finally tied with Epperson and at his minimum target score with seven holes still to play.
At the par-5 fifth, Thompson took his first lead of the tournament, posting his sixth birdie of the day to reach 10-under par for the week.
Just two holes later, at the watery dogleg-right par-5 seventh, he sealed his name on the winner’s check, posting one more birdie to reach 7-under for his round and 11-under overall. Pars on Nos. 8 and 9 gave the native Midwesterner a final-round 65 and an 11-under 133 tally in the clubhouse – all done without a single view of a leaderboard.
“I usually like to know where I’m at on the course, but with the rain-shortened event it was hard to tell,” said Thompson, alluding to the fact that players simply remained in their first-round pairings over two rounds. “I’ve played in enough Monday qualifiers where you don’t know how you stand, so I just kept trying to make birdies.”
Thompson, forced to wait roughly two hours to see if he would win, watched as literally zero players threatened his 11-under total. When the final group came to the table at 4:45 PM, Thompson had locked up his third eGolf Tour title, posting a two-shot win over Epperson.
“I really enjoy coming to the South and playing this tour,” said Thompson, who annually competes in four to six eGolf Tour events. “The courses are very good, and the fields are deep to the point where, if you win out here, you’ve played extremely well.”
Thompson’s win may not have come to fruition had it not been for a visit to noted golf instructor Jason Sutton at nearby Carmel Country Club on Wednesday afternoon.
With nothing but time on his hands, knowing he wouldn’t begin round two until Thursday, Thompson and a friend went to Carmel to have Sutton take a look at his putting stroke, using the SAM Putting Lab in order to analyze his setup and path.
“I had been putting poorly all year long – honestly, last week (Irish Creek) was probably the worst I’ve ever putted,” said Thompson. “Jason made a few changes and suggestions, and I putted incredibly today. I felt like I couldn’t miss.”
The win was Thompson’s third since the 2010 season. In 2010, he claimed his first eGolf Tour title at the HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn, while win No. 2 came at the Columbia Open in May of 2011. He is now third on the eGolf Tour money list with $19,216 in earnings.
David ErdyEpperson earned $10,000 for his runner-up finish, ascending to No. 1 on the eGolf Tour’s 2013 money list with $25,430 in earnings.
The runner-up finish marked the best of Epperson’s eGolf Tour career, which dates back to the start of the 2006 season. The former Armstrong Atlantic State golfer has now posted four top-4 finishes in four starts thus far in 2013, and owns a staggering nine top-4 finishes in his last 18 starts on tour – dating back to a solo-third-place effort at the 2012 Irish Creek Classic.
David Erdy of Evansville, IN finished in solo-third-place with rounds of 67-69—136. The former Indiana University golfer earned $7,280 for his efforts – the first made check of his eGolf Tour career.
Erdy nearly missed the tournament entirely when he showed up at 2:30 PM on Tuesday afternoon, thinking it was the day of the practice round (most eGolf Tour events start on Wednesdays). Erdy’s original tee time was 9:10 AM, which in most circumstances would have left him with a “Did Not Show” designation on the tournament scoreboard; however, given the seven-hour weather delay, he had arrived roughly an hour-and-a-half shy of his new 4:10 PM tee time.
Stefan Wiedergruen of Germany, Fielding Brewbaker of Salem, VA, Chip Lynn of Lillington, NC, Marty Jeppesen of Saline, MI and Bruce Woodall of Yanceyville, NC tied for fourth at 6-under 138. Each player earned $3,900.
• The tour would like to thank Ballantyne head golf professional Matt Saggio and his staff for their help in coordinating this inaugural event. A special thanks goes to Ballantyne head golf course superintendent Scott Cochran and his crew for presenting a wonderful venue for the week, and for putting in extra work to prepare the course around numerous delays. Finally, a special thank you goes to the members of Ballantyne Country Club for allowing the tour to utilize their club for the week, and for their tireless efforts in volunteering. Without their support, the event would not be possible.
• The eGolf Tour will take next week off before returning to action for the fourth annual Championship at St. James Plantation, to be contested at The Reserve Club at St. James Plantation in Southport, NC on March 27-30.