Division 1 Champion
Senior Net Champion
Division 2 Champion
Division 3 Champion
Massapequa Park, NY
Division 4 Champion
Myrtle Beach, SC
Division 5 Champion
Ladies Net Champion
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA — October 28, 2021
A few minutes before 3:00pm on Wednesday, October 27th, Russell Cook of Oxford, Mississippi, made a nervous three and a half foot putt on the 2nd green of the storied Pinehurst No. 2 course to win a two-hole playoff over Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Eli Villanueva, bringing a close to competition in the inaugural Amateur Players Tour North American Championship. The three-day, 54 hole, stroke play competition welcomed 360 golfers from 27 different states to the Sand Hills of North Carolina and the venerable Pinehurst Resort all vying to become the first North American Champions crowned in their respective divisions.
On November 1, 2020, co-founders of the Amateur Players Tour, Matt Minder and Jody Barrett, launched an ambitious nationwide expansion that saw membership numbers rapidly swell to more than 3,200 members representing 34 local chapters across the United States and Canada. The 2021 season has seen APT members compete in more than 500 local and national events from coast to coast on a tour schedule that quickly became known as #theroadtopinehurst. The 2021 APT North American Championship put the player-centric vision of Minder and Barrett on full display with a fresh new format, incredible tee gifts valued at more than $150 dollars, a prize pool in excess of $49,000 dollars paid out entirely in APT branded Visa gift cards, and a host venue worthy of hosting the tour’s premier championship event.
Division 1 - The opening round of the Division 1 Championship was played on Tom Fazio’s Pinehurst No. 8, known as the Centennial course. The competition came out of the gate firing with one-fourth of the field ending round one at +4 or better. A pair of senior members, Tim Saunders of Hixson, TN and Scott Roberts of Lancaster, SC, put their younger competitors on notice with opening one-over 73’s. Lexington, Kentucky’s Eric King had a roller coaster round with six birdies on his way to an even par 72. Dan Constantino of Greer, SC kept pace with King’s 72, but he had the rare joy of cashing in on a $500 dollar hole-in-one prize on the par 3 fifth hole. Meanwhile, the day belonged to Tyler Fieser of St. Charles, Missouri. Fieser raced out to a 3-shot lead, converting 5 birdies on his way to an opening 3 under, 69.
The field moved to Pinehurst No. 9 for the second round and a final chance to earn their way onto Pinehurst No. 2 for the championship round. Formerly known as Pinehurst National, the Jack Nicklaus designed No. 9 presented a completely different challenge to the players with a routing winding through a residential development that seems to get tighter as the round progresses. Double digit winds further complicated an already difficult challenge, and the cream of the field rose to the top. Roberts let the way with a steady Even par, 72, while the leader, Fieser, stumbled to fall well back of the lead. King and Saunders kept pace with Roberts, and another senior competitor, Memphis’ Ed McDugle, posted a one-over 73 to punch his ticket to No. 2.
With only 17 qualifying spots available for Division 1, the conclusion of the 2nd round left three players tied for 17th creating a 3-for-1 sudden death playoff between Cedric Boutin and Jesse Smith of Louisville, KY, and Russell Sabol of Martinez, GA. The three players went to the first hole at Pinehurst No. 9 with a gallery gathered to follow along. With Boutin and Sabol in the left rough, Smith hit a hybrid down the right center of the fairway leaving a perfect angle in to the elevated and heavily bunkered green. After Boutin nearly holed out his chip from left of the green, and with Sabol in position to save par, Smith drained a 22 foot birdie putt to move on to the championship round.
Smith carried the momentum of the playoff into the championship round at Pinehurst No. 2 with birdies on holes 15 and 17 to climb four places on the leaderboard. Chris Lamb of Alexandria, Virginia posted a 79 to also move up four spots. First round leader, Tyler Fieser, bounced back from a tough day at No. 9 to card a 3-over 75 and make the biggest move in the Division to jump all the way to solo 4th.
The day, however, belonged to Scott Roberts. The Lancaster, SC native birdied his first two holes on his way to an opening 32 to quickly pull away from challengers Eric King and Tim Saunders. Roberts birdied the par 5 10th hole to get to 5-under for the round and 4-under for the tournament building a lead that would never be in danger. With a solid two-putt par on the par 4 18th, in front of hundreds of spectators surrounding the green and on the veranda of the Pinehurst clubhouse, Roberts claimed both the North American Div. 1 Championship and won the Senior Net Championship for the week.
In the Consolation round at Pinehurst No. 6, Gastonia, North Carolina’s Scott Patnode posted the round of the day with an Even par 72 featuring an eagle on the par 5 15th hole. Russell Sabol gathered himself after narrowly missing out in the 3-for-1 playoff the day prior to fire come away with a one-stroke victory in the consolation field and take home the $250 Visa Gift Card.
Division 2 - The Division 2 field drew an opening round challenge with the rolling hills of Pinehurst No. 6, a collaboration by Georg and Tom Fazio. A brief thunderstorm rolled through shortly after the first groups teed off necessitating a temporary stoppage of play and adding a layer of difficulty for the field to contend with as the course conditions evolved. Eli Villanueva of Fayetteville, North Carolina had no trouble adjusting. He converted three birdie chances on his way to an opening round 1-over 73. The solid start gave Villanueva a two shot margin over Don Manuel of Birmingham, Alabama and Chad Henry of Fenton, Missouri.
Despite having some difficulty closing out his round on the shorter, par 70, Pinehurst No. 1, Villanueva still managed to stretch his lead to 4 shots after the second round. Michael Martin of Cameron, North Carolina, had 4 birdies on his round, including the difficult 190-yard, par 3, 12th hole. Martin’s 3-over-par 73 sent him rocketing 34 positions up the leaderboard and into contention for the championship. John Perron of Dallas, Georgia ended the day tied for 5th with Martin after his own round of 74. Russell Cook of Oxford, Mississippi cleaned up his card with no double bogeys in his second round to card a 5-over-par 75 to end the day tied for 3rd with Matt Walters of Frankfort, Kentucky, just 5 shots back of the leader, Villanueva.
The conclusion of Round 2 left four players tied at 21-over-par with only two qualifying spots available to advance to the championship round at Pinehurst No. 2. Paul Luker of Memphis, Tennessee, Raymond Dawson of Arlington, Texas, Daryl Wolff of West Burlington, Iowa, and Brady Jackson of Louisville, Kentucky met back on the first tee of Pinehurst No. 1 to begin the 4-for-2 sudden death playoff to see who would advance. Wolff successfully hit the small, pushed up green in regulation and converted his two-putt par to advance. Jackson’s tee shot drifted right ending up across the out of bounds fence leading to his elimination from the playoff. Dawson had a par putt to eliminate Luker and advance, but the 5 footer slid just right of the cup. The two went on to play four more holes, tying each of the next three with pars, before ultimately deciding a winner on the par 3 fifth. Luker cozied his 45 foot birdie putt from the back fringe to just inches from the hole forcing Dawson to convert his up-and-down attempt from just right of the green. Dawson’s par putt once again slipped just wide of the cup to give Luker the final spot in the championship field for the final round.
Pinehurst No. 2 proved to be quite the challenge for the Div. 2 field. The 36-hole leader, Villanueva, was 2-over through his first 27 holes of the championship and 19-over through his final 27 holes. His 12-over par 84 in the final round allowed the rest of the field to erase his 5 shot lead and make things very interesting down the stretch. Charlie Estabrook of Pella, Iowa, and Lee Dixon of Charleston, South Carolina led the field with 5-over par 77’s. John Bradshaw of Crossville, Tennessee fired a 1-over par 37 on the front nine on his was to a closing 80 and a top five finish. Despite an opening round 81, Russell Cook found himself tied with Villanueva at the turn and both players stepped onto the 18th tee at Pinehurst No. 2 still tied with a chance to win the the championship.
Cook hit the fairway while the lefty, Villanueva, pushed his tee shot left just into the waste area. With Cook safely on the green, Villanueva managed to overcome a terrible lie against a tuft of native grass to somehow find the putting surface. Both players would convert their two-putt pars and move on to a sudden death playoff beginning on the first hole of Pinehurst No. 2. With dozens of spectators following them down the first fairway, the players exchanged nervous bogeys and quickly moved on to the par 4 second hole. After two excellent tee shots finding the left center of the fairway, both players left their approach just short of the false front protecting the 2nd green complex. Cook nearly hit his knees as his putt from off the green slammed into the flagstick and came to rest a few feet away. Villanueva’s putt from the fringe came up 5 feet short of the hole and he was unable to convert the par putt. Cook brushed his 4 footer in for the par and the win. The players exchanged a big hug in a demonstration of the sportsmanship that was evident all week across all divisions.
Brad Keller of Martinsville, Indiana took the consolation round win with a 78 at Pinehurst No. 9 while Dave Field of Raleigh, North Carolina and Curt Wuellner of Hebron, Kentucky posted matching 79s to finish in the money. Spanish Fork, Utah’s Equator Pohahau (best name on the APT!) led the way at No. 6 with a 79 of his own.
Division 3 - The original Donald Ross classic, Pinehurst No. 1, welcomed the Division 3 players to the championship. Despite the shorter length at just over 6,100 yards, the par 70 layout showed some teeth with perfectly manicured Ross-style green complexes. Local legend, Warren Hackler of Clayton, North Carolina, led the way with an opening 7-over par 77. He was joined by West Chester, Pennsylvania’s Daniel Kessler. Another pair of locals sat just two shots back as Cisco Almodovar of Fayetteville, NC and William Buie of Simpsonville, SC posted matching 79’s.
As the field moved over to Pinehurst No. 6 for the 2nd round, the top of the leaderboard saw an extraordinary amount of movement. Hackler and Kessler were unable to follow up their solid first round play. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith of Massapequa Park, NY and Joe Renteria of Lottsburg, VA fired a pair of 6-over par 78’s to jump up the leaderboard and get into the final group for the final round. Almodovar and Buie slipped a bit, but remained in solid position to make a run.
The conclusion of the 2nd round left five players tied at +30 for the final 3 qualifying spots at Pinehurst #2. Rex Meyer of Brownstown, Indiana, Brad Taylor or Gulf Breeze, FL, Mark Gonzales of Beaumont, Texas, Shamsundar Baichoo of Clearwater, FL, and Greg Levitt of Las Vegas, Nevada each headed to #1 tee at Pinehurst #6 in a 5 for 3 playoff. Mark Gonzales came out strong out of the gate, advancing to the final round with a birdie on the 1st playoff hole. Shamsundar Baichoo also advanced to the final round with a par on #1. Rex Meyer and Brad Taylor both made bogey on #1, and Greg Levitt was eliminated on the first playoff hole. Rex Meyer and Brad Taylor advanced to the 2nd playoff hole in a 2 for 1 scenario. Rex Meyer made par on the 2nd playoff hole to earn the final spot at the famed Pinehurst #2.
Matt Miller of Fort Mill, SC came out firing on all cylinders in the championship round with the only Div 3 round in the 70s. Miller’s 79 on the difficult Pinehurst No. 2 moved him up 16 spots on the leaderboard and gave him a top 5 finish. Lenin Gali of Tracy, California repped the west coast with three solid rounds and a T2 finish. Ultimately, the Div. 3 championship would be decided on the 18th hole as Smith and Almodovar made their way toward the crowd awaiting their closing hole. Almodovar had built a three shot lead, but bogeys on 16 and 17 had erased that lead entirely. There was potential for as many as 5 players going to sudden death with one hole remaining.
Smith dumped his approach into the front left bunker while Almodovar’s approach skipped over the back of the green leaving him with a difficult decision to putt from off the green up and over the sloped fall off on the back of the green or attempt a chip with a lofted club from a tight lie. Smith advanced his ball onto the green and holed his second putt. Almodovar elected to chip and left himself short of the hole with a very difficult sliding down grain putt. His putt just missed on the high side of the hole but caught the slope and ran eight feet by. Ultimately, Almodovar had a putt to tie Smith and send them both to sudden death. That putt caught the low edge of the hole, rode the lip all the way around, but refused to fall leaving Kevin Smith as the last man standing in Division 3.
In the consolation round on No. 9, Gilbert, Arizona’s Andy Sturdivant fired a solid 8-over par 80 to post the best round of the day. Greg Levitt of Las Vegas, Nevada took home the 1st place prize in the consolation field followed closely by Ray Conley of Hilliard, Ohio.
Division 4 - The field for Division 4 was divided each day with half of the field playing at Fazio’s brawny Pinehurst No. 8 and the other half facing Nicklaus’ challenging Pinehurst No. 9. In Round 1 the field at Pinehurst No. 8 took advantage of a morning shower that softened the putting surfaces ever so slightly. Four of the top five scores of the day were posted at Pinehurst No. 8. Daniel Henris of Havelock, North Carolina posted an opening 83 to take the first round lead. Jack Pereira of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina kept pace with an 84 while Chris Huge of Mt. Pleasant, SC and Brian Raymond of Longs, SC posted a pair of 86’s. Jerry Price, Jr. of Waynesboro, Georgia came in with the best round on Pinehurst No. 9 with an 86.
With double digit winds throughout the day, both courses would get their revenge on the field in Round 2. Pereira would use his experience playing in coastal winds to his advantage with an 83 at Pinehurst No. 9. Robert Lawless of Pickerington, Ohio bounced back from a dramatic first round with a solid 85 to secure his spot in the championship round. Mark Wright of Georgetown, Indiana and Dave York of Louisville, Kentucky would also tame the wind to earn their spot at Pinehurst No. 2. Pereira’s solid play would send him into the championship round with a strong four-shot lead.
At the completion of 36 holes, there were four players tied for 18th position and only three could advance to the championship round. Brian Raymond of Longs, South Carolina, Jimmy Tubbs of Garden City, New York, James Jacobs of Nashville, Tennessee, and Peter Murray of Greenlawn, New York would play the par 3 ninth hole at Pinehurst No. 9 twice to determine who would advance. On the first playoff hole Jacobs drained a 20 foot curling birdie putt and Raymond made a nervy 4 footer to save par. Murray’s tee shot found the water left of the hole, but he got up and down to save his bogey to tie Tubbs. Murray and Tubbs went back to the tee for a second playoff hole for the last spot. Tubbs’ par putt slid just wide right of the hole leaving Murray with the last spot in the championship field at Pinehurst No. 2.
Murray continued to ride the positive momentum into the championship round with an impressive 86 to go from the last man in to a 7th place finish. Allen Strausbaugh of Sugar Creek, Missouri led the field at No. 2 with 3 birdies on his way to an 84 and a solo 2nd finish. Paul Rovnak of Poland, OH followed close behind with an 85 and solo 4th finish. Pat Ryan of Spring, Texas matched Murray’s 86 to climb 8 positions on the day and climb safely into the top 10. Pereira’s 36 hole lead and the beguiling Donald Ross green complexes at No. 2 proved too much for the field to overcome. Despite a 48 on his outward nine, Pereira cruised to a comfortable six shot victory. His week would get even better just a couple of hours later when his ticket was drawn for the 50/50 drawing benefiting breast cancer research.
The Div. 4 consolation round was played on Pinehurst No. 1 with Greensboro, North Carolina’s Christy McCauley posting back-to-back birdies on holes 6 and 7 on her way to a field leading 82 and the 1st place prize. Chris Siam of Myrtle Beach nipped at Christy’s heels with an 83 and the 2nd place finish. Another west coaster, Dave Davidson of Rancho Cucamonga, California, slid into the 3rd place prize money.
Division 5 - Div. 5 competitors were faced with arguably the best course rotation for the first two rounds drawing both Pinehurst No. 9 and Pinehurst No. 8, and the field rose to the challenge. Round 1 at Pinehurst No. 9 left five players tied for the 1st round lead with opening 90’s. Rick Burton of Seymour, IN, John Kelsey of Burns, TN, Ricky Compton of Tazewell, VA, Robbie Carlton of Rossville, GA, and Dennis McZeal of Fontana, CA tamed the Nicklaus design to grab the early advantage. David Szczucinski of Kansas City, KS and Thurman Boyd of Smyrna, TN led a host of chasers just one shot back.
The windy conditions for Round 2 were especially difficult at Pinehurst No. 8 where much of the course sets on top of a ridge just northwest of the village. Bryan Baker of Lake Nona, FL controlled his ball all day in route to a field best 89. David McDow of Lynnville, TN and Felix Monjes of Tracy, California posted matching 93’s to secure their spots in the championship round. Burton and Kelsey maintained their position at the head of the pace with Burton taking a slim 3-shot lead to Pinehurst No. 2.
Like all other divisions, Division 5 needed a sudden death playoff to determine the final players that would advance to Pinehurst No. 2 for the championship round. 5 players would return to the ninth hole of Pinehurst No. 8 to vie for the final 4 spots. Steven Daniels of Huntersville, NC, Chad Lowe of Baltimore, OH, Mike Eames of North Ogden, UT, David Densieski of Manorville, NY and Monjes were all tied at 193. All 5 players hit good tee shots in the fairway, with each player having between 145 to 165 yards in. Chad Lowe was the only player to hit the green in regulation, with 3-putts being good enough for a bogey and a ticket to #2. Everyone else was short right of the green. Felix Monjes hit a brilliant bunker shot to around 5 feet to secure his ticket to #2. Steven Daniels and Mike Eames both chipped up and two-putted for bogey to secure the final qualifying spots for the final round on Pinehurst #2.
Daniels and Monjes took advantage of their playoff success with both players climbing into the top 10 at the conclusion of the final round. Jana Hudson of Baileyton, Alabama was the lone female competitor to qualify for Pinehurst No. 2, and her game stood up to the test with a T4 finish. The race quickly narrowed down to Burton and Kelsey with both players exchanging punches throughout the round. Kelsey ran into a tough stretch in the middle of the round, but righted the ship with pars on three of his last five holes. Burton refused to open the door and managed to keep Kelsey at bay in the closing holes to secure his second national championship and first with the Amateur Players Tour.
In the Div. 5 consolation round at Pinehurst No. 1, Joshua Madden of Nampa, ID and Robert Vespa of Shoreacres, TX each climbed 14 positions with a pair of 88’s. A sudden death playoff was required to determine the consolation winner, and David Densieski was able to edge out Sean Tavel of East Windsor, New Jersey for the win.
Ladies Net - The APT North American Championship is the only championship to crown separate Ladies and Senior Net Champions. McCauley and Hudson both finished in the money in the open field, but they could not keep up with Burtonsville, Maryland’s Jeanne Rowzee in the Ladies Net Division. Simay Souvannarath of Imperial, Missouri also had a great week to finish 3rd in the Ladies Net.
Senior Net - It is difficult for a low handicapper to win a net division, but five birdies in the final round on Pinehurst No. 2 was enough to get the job done for Lancaster, South Carolina’s Scott Roberts. Roberts took home the ultimate double-dip winning both the overall Div. 1 championship and the Senior Net championship. Gregory Hahn of Bellbrook, OH and Bill McKiegan of North Haven, CT came up just short of Robert’s 2-under finish.
The 2022 North American Championship will be held October 10-12, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.