Originally created 07/22/02

Whitaker wins City Amateur tournament



The way Chip Whitaker was playing, he would have normally breezed to victory Sunday in the Augusta City Amateur golf tournament.

Instead, he had some anxious moments before beating fellow Augustan Chris Kuhlke by a shot in the Regions Cup event at Forest Hills Golf Club.

Whitaker was in control of his game all day. He ended up shooting even-par 72 to finish at 1-under-par 215, but it almost wasn't enough.

That's because Kuhlke, who started the day six shots behind Whitaker, shot 67, the low round of the tournament by three shots.

Until he made costly bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16, the only thing that had slowed down Kuhlke was a lightning delay of more than 45 minutes early in the round.

Through 11 holes, Kuhlke was 7-under for the day and had taken a one-shot lead over Whitaker, who had just bogeyed No. 10.

"I said, 'Oh gracious, I'm going to need to make some birdies coming in," said Whitaker, who was playing in the group behind Kuhlke.

"I didn't know what to think because I haven't been there very much," Kuhlke said of his 7-under start. "I just wanted to keep making birdies because I knew they were playing good behind me."

Kuhlke's birdie on No. 11 - his fifth of the day to go with an eagle on No. 9 - proved to be his last.

"It seemed like the luck just ran out," said Kuhlke, the 1994 city amateur champion.

Instead of being rattled by Kuhlke's play, Whitaker answered by making birdies of his own. With birdies on Nos. 11 and 13, Whitaker had pulled even with Kuhlke, who would play his final seven holes in 2-over. Whitaker was 1-under on that stretch.

Whitaker showed his determination by making a scrambling par on the 14th hole. After a poor drive put him in the right woods, his next shot hit the lip of a bunker and went only 30 yards. He then hit a sand wedge to 20 feet of the hole and made the putt.

"That par turned out to be very, very important," Whitaker said.

Whitaker caught a break on the par-5 17th hole when his tee shot, which was heading out of bounds, hit a large tree on the left side of the fairway and dropped straight down.

"I was nervous on that shot, I'm not going to lie to you," Whitaker said. "The only trouble is left. I got lucky. Even though I made a bogey (with a three-putt), it could have been much worse."

It was Whitaker's first Regions Cup victory and helped take some of the sting out of last year's city amateur. Whitaker entered the final round tied for the lead, shot 78 and finished fourth.

"It means a lot," Whitaker. "The main thing is, playing over at 'The Patch' (Augusta Golf Course), everybody thinks that's just a little chip-and-putt course, but you've got to be able to play over there. For me, maybe this will give me a start now. I know I can play with these guys."

Bob Varn, of Orangeburg, S.C., won the senior division, outlasting Augusta's Chuck Withers in a sudden-death playoff that went five holes. Varn and Withers both shot 78 on Sunday to finish at 226.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.



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