Originally created 06/05/06

Ledford's proof is in the putting

Phillip McCormick won't be making any more comments about Eric Ledford's putting ability.

Inspired by a cutting remark by McCormick, Ledford made eight birdies Sunday to rally past McCormick and win the W.M. Gregory Classic.

Ledford, who trailed first-round leaders McCormick and Lance Johnson by four shots starting the day, closed with 6-under-par 66 at North Augusta Country Club.

Ledford finished at 5-under 139 and beat Jeff Pope (70-70-140) by one shot. Pope, was playing in his first Regions Cup event in nearly two years, said he'd "probably" play in some more events this year.

Phillip McCormick's younger brother, John, was third at 72-70-142, and Phillip McCormick and Johnson tied for fourth place with Paul Atchison at 145. McCormick and Johnson shot 69-76; Atchison had 74-71.

Phillip McCormick got under Ledford's skin in the season-opening City of Augusta Match Play Championship in May. After McCormick beat Ledford in the final, McCormick said he'd teach Ledford how to putt if Ledford would teach him half of his shoulder turn.

"Well, I putted better this week, put it that way," said Ledford, referring to McCormick's comment. "I finally got the best of him."

"I'm not giving him any more remarks," McCormick said. "I don't need to say anything else because I don't need any more of those 66s thrown at me."

After McCormick won the Match Play tournament, he praised Ledford, saying he would win soon. He didn't know it would be in the next Regions Cup event.

"I congratulated him and said, 'You didn't take long,'" McCormick said. "He's back. He's a really good player."

Ledford, 27, was nationally-ranked as a teenager. He earned a scholarship to South Carolina, where he was on the team every year, but seldom made the traveling squad.

He's rededicated himself to golf in the past six months in the hopes of turning pro in the fall.

In the meantime, the Aiken resident is playing some Regions Cup events to get his competitive edge back.

Through the two events, he's the points leader in this series, which rewards players for top 20 finishes, with 125. Phillip McCormick is second with 105.

Sunday's victory was his first, Ledford said, since his junior golf days.

"It's been a long time; I finally won," he said.

Mike Jackson might have said the same thing after he rolled in a 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole to edge Jim Brisson by a shot for the senior division title. Jackson trailed by three shots after the first round, but shot a final-round 68 to Brisson's 72.

For the 57-year-old Jackson, a two-time Senior Player of the Year, it was his first victory since 2004, and gave him 12 career senior division victories. Dr. Ed Payne, who shot 77-75-152, is the all-time leader with 13.

"My goal last year was to surpass the doctor, and now I've got one more to tie him," Jackson said.

Brisson, 53, is winless as a senior, but has "three or four" second-place finishes, he said.

"I'm frustrated; I really wanted to win today," Brisson said. "I shot even (par). I guess that's good, but it wasn't good enough."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


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