It's Gus Again: Ulrich, Wells Claim Pinecrest Cup Titles
It was nothing new for Gus Ulrich. He had been there before.
But for Chip Wells, it was new territory and he likes the view from the top.
Ulrich was taken to the limit before retaining his Pinecrest Cup Match Play title last Monday on Pinehurst Resort's No. 2 Course. But after getting up and down from a bunker on the final hole for a 1-up win over Steve Ford, he was celebrating his third victory in the event.
Wells, the veteran head professional at Scotch Meadows Country Club in Laurinburg, made his debut as a senior one to remember, out-dueling a tough Chuck Wunsch in the over-50 division.
For most of the day, it didn't appear as though Ulrich, the head teaching professional in the egolf Academy at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Resort, would have to go the distance to retain his title.
But Ford, a former Nationwide Tour player who is currently working for Weichert Realtors in Pinehurst, refused to go away. And when the 45-year-old Ulrich faltered on the closing holes, Ford was quick to take advantage.
Ford, 42, who had two runner-up finishes on the Nationwide Tour in 2002, played outstanding golf from tee to green but found Ulrich's hot putter too much to overcome.
"I hit the ball great all day," Ford said, "but Gus never missed a putt. His short game is what made the difference."
Ford was satisfied with his performance, though.
"I just wanted to play well, and I did that," he said. "I knew if Gus had a putt to win at the end, he probably would make it."
Because of other play on No. 2, the contestants were asked to tee off on the 10th hole and play the back nine first. Ulrich built a 3-up lead at the turn and held it until the 15th hole, when he bogeyed. He lost the 16th to a birdie, and both parred the 17th.
Ulrich had the putt at the end, all right. Ford hit a beautiful tee shot on the par-3 finishing hole (the ninth hole on the course) some 15 feet past the cup. Ulrich put his tee shot in a front bunker and blasted out to within six feet.
Ford's birdie putt to even the match barely missed, and Ulrich canned the six-footer.
"I probably relaxed a little too much with the 3-up lead," Ulrich said.
There was no relaxing after the 16th hole, though. Ulrich hit a wonderful shot from a fairway bunker to within seven feet, only to watch as Ford holed a 12-footer for birdie.
"When Steve made his birdie putt, that changed by approach." Ulrich said. "I got a little too aggressive and mine didn't take the break."
Ulrich was quick to praise his friend, Wynn Solle, a multiple Moore Amateur champion who served as his caddie, for his success with the putter.
"Wynn became a good buddy when I was working at Pinewild," Ulrich said. "He's a member here, and when I made the finals, I gave him a call. He did a great job with the reads and gave me some good targets."
Wells, who played in the open division in 2007 and lost to current Moore County Amateur champion Sherrill Britt in the second round of match play, took a 4-up lead after 13 when he birdied the par-5 fourth hole.
"I was more aggressive early in the match," he said, "but I went into my protect mode. I was playing defense instead of offense. Chuck missed a few shots, but overall he played well."
Wunsch, a 59-year-old from Pinehurst, played in the senior division last year, losing to eventual winner Spike Smith in the quarterfinals.
"I had a chance to win the 16th hole and keep it alive with a 12-foot putt for birdie," Wunsch said. "My caddie told me exactly where to put it and I just didn't do it. Putting was the difference. I played two rounds in the North and South Senior here a few weeks ago and thought I might have a feel for the greens. But it just didn't work out.
"I guess I've lost to the winner both years but I really enjoy this event. It's well run and I'll be back next year."
The tournament is operated by Marcus Larose and Ron Giles, two area professionals who have ventured into other fields in recent years. It's open to professionals or amateurs who reside or work in Area 5 of the Carolinas PGA and proceeds are donated to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
"It's a good way to raise money for a great cause," Ulrich said. "This is really a good event and Marcus and Ron do a terrific job with it.
"Just being able to walk the No. 2 Course with a caddie in the final round is as good as it gets. It's easy to get nostalgic out here."
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