Ledford Edges Guess in Playoff To Win 2005 Metro
As he made the turn toward the back nine in the final round of the Chattanooga Men’s Metro at Council Fire on Sunday afternoon, Bryce Ledford’s thoughts weren’t exactly focused on winning the tournament.
Ledford, a junior on UTC’s golf team, had been battling his swing for the better part of two days. Worse, he trailed leader Josh Coley by five shots. The way Coley had been playing, it didn’t appear likely he could be caught. And considering Coley had won seven of the 14 tournaments he’s played since last fall, well, tournament officials had all but sent the Metro trophy out to be engraved with Coley’s name on it.
Then some funny things began happening. Coley went into a tailspin (more on that later) and Ledford began making putts. And Chase Deck and Philip Guess kept playing solid golf, just as they had for three days. All four players led or shared the lead on the back nine.
When the last shot had been struck, only two remained. Guess, who had closed with a 2-under-par 70, and Ledford, who shot 71. Both had completed 54 holes at 3-under-par 213.
A playoff began at No. 1, a short par-4 that Guess didn’t think twice about when he pulled a driver from his bag. The last five holes had been difficult for Guess, though it was hard to tell as he kept hitting fairways and greens. The heat and humidity caused his hands to sweat profusely and made hanging on to the club a challenge.
At No. 1, with a negative thought—“Don’t let the club slip,” he said—circulating in his head, he overcompensated and pulled his tee shot into the left hazard.
That was all the opening Ledford needed. After watching Guess’s tee shot, he walked to his bag, put back his driver and grabbed a 3-iron.
Ledford’s own tee shot wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it left him 160 yards and a 9-iron into the green. He wasn’t particularly concerned when he yanked his approach into the left greenside bunker. “I’d been there a few times before,” said Ledford, a Council Fire member.
As Guess was figuring out where to drop after taking a penalty stroke and eventually advancing his ball to within 10 feet of the hole with a long iron and chip shot, Ledford blasted his third shot to less than two feet. Guess made his putt for a bogey. Ledford, who had putted well all day after forsaking a belly putter for an old Scott Cameron before the final round began, calmly drained the par-saver for his first Metro championship.
“I was very fortunate to win,” Ledford said. “I hit the ball badly all day. I was lucky to even be in the playoff.”
Guess, who has more second-place finishes in local amateur tournaments than he cares to remember, was philosophical about another bridesmaid run.
“That’s golf,” said Guess, who has played in only three tournaments this year. “It is what it is.”
About two hours before the playoff started, no one on the golf course would have predicted the outcome would have been decided by a playoff. Josh Coley, who tied for the lead after the first round and held it alone after the second, made three front-nine birdies to move from 4-under par for the tournament to 6-under. Standing on the 10th tee, his lead was four shots over Guess, and five over Ledford and Chase Deck.
Then the unthinkable happened. Trying to draw his tee shot, Coley instead hit it right, where his ball proceeded to go out of bounds, bouncing off a couple of houses as it went. Coley’s second tee shot was striped down the middle, but he went on to make a double-bogey six at the par-four hole. A scary thought had been implanted in his brain and his march to the championship had been derailed.
“That hole killed any momentum I had,” Coley said.
Or, more specifically, the dub generated some momentum in another direction—down the leaderboard. Coley caught a bad break at No. 11 when his second shot nestled into a fluffy lie to the right of the green. He intended to slip his sand wedge under the ball and pop it onto the green, but instead he skulled the shot across the green. He eventually made bogey and dropped to 3-under par.
That was the last time Coley held a piece of the lead. Ledford’s eagle at No. 11—he dropped in a 40-foot bomb of a putt—tied him with Coley at 3-under. Ledford surrendered joint ownership of the lead with a bogey at the par-3 12th, but Coley also made a bogey there. His travails were far from over. Coley hit is second shot into the water at the par-5 13th and made another bogey, then missed the green at the par-3 14th and couldn’t save par. In a five-hole stretch, Coley went from leading the tournament at 6-under to trailing Ledford, Guess and Deck by two shots.
“I got mad,” Coley said of his downward spiral. “But I knew I still had a chance to win if I birdied three of the last four holes.”
Coley gave it his best shot, making birdies at No. 15 and 18, but the late charge back up the leaderboard wasn’t enough.
Coley finished with a 74, good for a tie for third with Deck.
Ledford had to make things happen late to earn his share of the lead. At No. 15, his approach rolled off the back of the green, about 22 feet from the hole. Just trying not to rip a putt four feet past, Ledford deftly trickled his first pass down the hill. “I wasn’t trying to make it, really, but it just kept rolling and rolling and it went in,” Ledford said.
On the par-4 16th, Ledford pushed his second shot, but the ball caught the slope and obligingly rolled toward the hole, leaving him with a 10-footer for birdie. He made it and was alone in the lead at 4-under for the tournament.
Ledford bogeyed No. 17 when he pulled his tee shot, and Guess did every thing but sink a 20-foot birdie putt: his ball rolled around the hole, but refused to drop.
Guess needed one more birdie to tie for the lead, and he got it with a 12-foot putt at the 18th, setting the stage for the playoff.
After he’d been beaten, Guess patiently answered reporters’ questions and even joked about his growing reputation as “Mr. Second Place.”
“I didn’t win, but it was still fun,” Guess said. “I guess second place beats third.”