Chris Ward picked the right moment to put his struggles with the putter behind him.
The American birdied the last hole to snap a two-way tie with clubhouse leader Jimmy Lytle and capture a maiden Grey Goose World Par 3 Championship title at the second attempt at Turtle Hills Golf Club on Saturday.
Ward’s tee shot left him with a tricky six-foot putt from above the hole which he buried with the kind of precision that his game has lacked in recent years.
“This is the best I have putted in the last few years and that’s been part of my game that’s been struggling,” said Ward, whose final round two-under-par 52 put him at five-under 103 for a one-shot victory.
“The last few years I have hit it really well and consistently and then my putting would hold me back so to putt well for two days in a row is definitely a nice momentum boost.”
As for his pressure-filled championship clinching putt, Ward added: “I had a pretty good idea that putt on the last was for the win.
“For a six-foot putt I had to play it outside of the hole, so luckily I hit it at the right pace and it turned at the end to fall in the hole.
“I was definitely feeling the pressure so I took a couple of deep breaths to get my heart to stop racing as much. The experience of being in that situation a few times definitely helped me as well.”
Ward started the final round one-shot behind overnight leader Chip Beck who tied the course record the previous day with a four-under 50.
The Texas native snatched the lead away from multiple PGA Tour winner and Ryder Cup player Beck after rolling in the second of his six birdies at No 6 to dip to two under for the round, five under for the tournament.
Ward slipped at the No 9 where he dropped a shot to be joined at the top of the leaderboard by PGA of Canada player Oliver Tubb, who birdied the same hole.
But he regained the lead outright on the next hole which he held until he was reeled in by Lytle after carding bogeys at No 14 and No 16 as the fierce tug-of-war at the top of the leaderboard continued.
“I was flowing and just hit a couple of bad chips coming in and a couple of bogeys and that brought a couple of guys back in contention,” Ward said. “We were just going back and forth for the lead.”
Ward flirted with disaster after his tee shot missed the green at No 17. But once again his putter came to the rescue as he got up and down to save par.
“I think that putt on 17 is actually what won it for me,” he said. “I hit a poor shot and missed the green to the right and then hit a poor chip to about 15-20 feet from the hole, which I ended up nailing.”
Lytle and Tubb made a fist of it coming in but ultimately it was not enough.
Coming up short would have been tough for runner-up Lytle to swallow as his final round four under-50 tied the course record and was also the day’s lowest round.
PGA of Canada player Mark Kitts also shot a four-under 50 to earn a share of the course record with compatriot Brian McCann, Beck and Lytle.
Claiming local bragging rights was Michael Sims who finished tied for tenth at one-over 109.
The former Web.com Tour player played the front nine at even par before imploding with four bogeys coming in, including three on the trott.
“Obviously it’s not the way I would have liked to have finished off the back nine,” Sims said. “But it is what it is and I’m just happy to be playing golf and enjoying the competition.”
Bermuda’s Spencer Wideman and Tariqah Walikraam won the men’s and women’s amateur divisions while another local, Craig Christensen, won the senior divisions.