Cliff Matthews kicked the air on the 12th hole of the final round, motioning for his ball to drop into the hole.
After the ball fell in, Matthews might as well have kicked the door shut on the rest of the field.
Matthews carded a record 140-under-par 292 total in 12 rounds to win the $20,000 Professional Putters of America National Championship at Putt-Putt Golf & Games on Sunday. He defeated defending champion Greg Ward by four shots.
Kevin Lacey and Dan Anders tied for third at 131.
"To actually beat (Ward) is an accomplishment in itself," the 28-year-old Matthews said. "He's the Tiger Woods out here. You want to see anybody else on the leader board except him."
Entering Sunday's final four rounds, Ward stood atop the 92-player field. The Loganville, Ga., resident, who had already had a great week, led Matthews by two shots.
Ward, winner of more than 140 PPA events, including nine major titles, had a remarkable week. On Tuesday, he won the $15,000 PPA World Match Play Championship. Two days later, Ward was inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame.
But his bid to become the first player in the sport's 43-year history to defend the national championship was derailed by Matthews, who opened play Sunday with a 13-under-par 23. Matthews, who won the first-place check of $2,500, followed with a 24 and took a two-shot lead on Ward entering the final 36 holes.
Then in the 11th round, Matthews began to pull away. He aced the first seven holes of the Red course before making pars on Nos. 8 and 9. Matthews, of Dallas, then aced the next seven holes and finished with a 22.
"Every putt I hit, I knew it was going in," Matthews said of round 11.
Ward, 40, shot a respectable 26 that round, but trailed by six shots entering the final round on the Blue course. Ward shot a 26 in round 12, but failed to make a significant run at Matthews.
Leading by five in the final round, Matthews aced Nos. 11 through 14 to seal his victory.
"I hit a few stinkers today and he didn't leave me any room for error," said Ward, who took home $1,200. "He was in front of me and the pressure was on me."
Mike Flavin was the low Augustan, finishing in a tie for 30th at 322. Course owner Mark Ross and Frank Warren tied for 35th at 323.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222 ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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