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Raising the bar - Sullivan is star of stars at Maryland Open

July 17, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

The "C" in Chip Sullivan's name must stand for cool, calm and collected.

A tournament-tested veteran, Sullivan made his first golf trip to Hagerstown a memorable experience as he captured the 87th Maryland Open golf championship Wednesday at Fountain Head Country Club.

Sullivan withstood an early front-nine challenge from Beaver Creek pro Dirk Schultz, finishing the final round with a 1-under 69 for a three-day champion's card of 3-under 207 and his fourth Maryland Open title.

Sullivan's three previous victories came in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

"I don't know what it is about even years," said Sullivan after he accepted the first-place check of $8,100 and another bonus check from TaylorMade.

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In the end, the pro from Ashley Plantation in Roanoke, Va., cleared the field by three strokes. Jim Estes (Olney Park Club), Eric Egloff (Sandy Spring) and Jeff Castle (Towson Golf Club) each finished at even-par 210.

"This was a fantastic venue," Sullivan said of Fountain Head, hosting its sixth Maryland Open. "It's a great feeling to win. I played solid coming home in the back nine."

The front nine could have been disastrous for Sullivan, who began the final round leading Dennis Winters (Nassawango CC) by one shot and John Scott Rattan (Montgomery Village) by two.

Even though Sullivan had bookend birdies on the first and ninth holes, he labored with bogeys on Nos. 4, 6 and 8 to leave him 1 over for the day and 1 under for the tournament.

At the same time, Schultz, starting three groups ahead of Sullivan and four shots off the lead, was mounting a charge. He had a birdie on No. 1 and backed it up with an eagle on the par-5, 478-yard third hole when he sank a 15-foot uphill putt.

Schultz's birdie at the ninth gave him a front-nine 32 and moved him into a tie for the lead, just as Sullivan was coming off a bogey on No. 6.

Schultz bogeyed No. 10 and Sullivan came through with birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 to regain the lead, one he never relinquished. Sullivan birdied the 400-yard par-4 14th, while Schultz had double bogeys on the 15th and 16th.

"I've just drew from so much tournament experience to stay cool with my game," said Sullivan. "Getting the birdie on No. 9 got me pumped up and after 10, I was back going again and thought I was probably back in the lead."

Indeed, he was. In the same playing group as Winters and Rattan, Sullivan rebuffed their efforts as Winters finished with a 73-212 and Rattan a 75-215.

Estes and Castle each plugged away with a 1-under 69 and Egloff shot a 68, but it wasn't low enough to threaten Sullivan.

Following Tuesday's round, Sullivan said he might leave his driver in the bag, and nearly did, but was happy he pulled it out twice with his tee shots on the ninth and 10th holes.

"I kept the wheels from falling off on the front," Sullivan said. "I stayed aggressive. I just didn't execute bunker shots on the par 3s on the front."

The win was especially pleasing for Sullivan, who enjoyed the title with his wife, Kari, and daughters Kalley and Camryn.

He was playing for the first time in three weeks due to tendonitis in his left wrist. He continues today with the Virginia Open, then will play on the PGA Tour at the Reno-Tahoe Open starting July 31.

Schultz said he knew he was close to the lead after his birdie on No. 9. But he made the turn and started with a bogey on the 410-yard 10th and lost an opportunity on the 297-yard dogleg right par-4 11th.

He drove the green, sitting just on the edge of the fringe with a 25-foot sliding putt. He three-putted for par and held steady through a birdie 3 on the 378-yard 13th, sinking a 4-footer.

"I'm relaxed and in contention," he said.

But things went astray on the 15th and 16th. A scalded chip over the green on 15 led to a double bogey and a tough downslope shot out of the greenside bunker on the par-3 16th led to another double bogey.

"I tried to get cute out of the bunker and then I knew it was over," said Schultz, a four-time second-place finisher in the Open.

"But it was great to be in contention in your hometown, at a hometown course and with a hometown crowd," he said.

Fountain Head assistant pro Brian Boggs shot a 5-over 75 to finish in a tie for 28th at 221 and Beaver Creek's Ken Lampard ended with a 78 for a 225 and 37th-place tie.

For more on the Maryland Open, visit to Tim Koelble's blog at www.herald-mail.com/sports/blogs/koelble

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