Originally created 07/08/06

Putting on a winning show



Brad Lebo traveled to town with one mission in mind: shed his infamous title.

It's the same label occasionally thrown onto certain PGA Tour players. Best Player Never to Have Won a Major.

So the Shippensburg, Pa., dentist arrived two weeks early for the Professional Putters Association national championships.

His hard work was rewarded Friday at the Putt-Putt Fun Center in Martinez. Entering the final four rounds tied for the lead, Lebo broke free for a two-shot victory over Rainey Statum.

One thing more important than winning the national championship ring or the $3,000 grand prize, 16-year pro Lebo now can pass along the Best Player Never To Have Won a Major albatross to someone else.

"I guess we don't have to worry about that now," he said.

Lebo shot rounds of 24-24-22-27 on Friday to clinch his first major victory with a 90-under-par 198 total for the eight-round event. He opened the event with 24-27-25-25 and averaged 24.8 shots - almost 12-under-par - per round.

Statum of Huffman, Texas, placed second (200) for $2,000, while John Bambling of Pittsburgh finished third (205, $1,600).

Vanette Block won the women's division with final rounds of 27-26-25-26 for a 231 total.

Caleb Kennedy of Asheboro, N.C., defeated Larry Smith of Birmingham, Ala., in a playoff after the two tied at 214, one shot ahead of Jeff Brown of North Olmsted, Ohio. Kennedy shot 26 to win the 18-hole playoff by four shots.

Kennedy saved himself with a clutch par after making a terrible first putt on the final hole. From 10 feet out, he rolled his tricky second putt over the hill, off the back rail and back into the cup for a clutch par.

"I was more nervous on that than the playoff," Kennedy said. "That was my best putt of the tournament."

Lebo's best putt may have come anywhere in the next-to-last round, when he made nine consecutive birdies for 22. He opened up a six-shot advantage entering the final round.

Lebo can now leave happy. Friday marked his 16th day in Augusta.

"It's time to go home," Lebo said. "I think I've been over the whole town."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.



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