Clayton Wonnell Wins 2012 STPGA Professional Championship

Call it a nail biter or a cliffhanger or whatever you’d like . . . the 2012 Southern Texas PGA Professional Championship was a battle to the end, and in the end, it was Clayton Wonnell who took home the big prize.

Wonnell won the championship with a 54-hole total of 70-73-69—212, 4-under-par for the course at Miramont Country Club, where Wonnell is on staff as an assistant professional. At 24 years old, he is one of the youngest winners in the 44-year history of STPGA Professional Championship.

Wonnell started the final round 2 strokes off the pace set by second-round leader Scott Johnson and quickly served notice with a birdie on his first hole and a front-nine score of 34. From there through the halfway point of the back nine, it became anyone’s tournament, with a handful of golfers remaining within striking distance of the lead. By the time the leaders past the 15th hole, however, the tournament had become a three-man battle between Wonnell, John Gibson and first-round leader Carl Cooper.

Wonnell scored pars on 16 and 17, and then came the moment. After watching his second shot on the par-5 18th, Wonnell put his third shot within five feet of the hole and calmly sank his putt for birdie. He was one up on Gibson, with only Gibson, Cooper and Johnson still on the course.

“I didn’t even know I was in contention to win the thing at that point,” said Wonnell. “I was just kind of trying to keep my position as a qualifier for the PGA Professional Championship.”

Gibson, an assistant professional at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston, played steady golf down the home stretch, taking pars from the 12th through 18th holes, good, but when he sank his par putt on 18 to finish at 71-71-71—213, he was one short of Wonnell. Cooper, a golf instructor at Humble Oil Patch Golf Center, had pulled within 1 stroke of Wonnell with a birdie on 17, but bunkered himself with his tee shot on 18 and then again with his third shot. The result was a bogey and a third-place total of 65-78-71--214, and Wonnell had his name on the Tommy Aycock trophy.

“Brad (Lardon, the director of golf at Miramont) told me to do three things— hit it where you can find it, get your first chip on the green and don’t three-putt— and you’ll have a chance to win this thing,” said Wonnell, “and that was my mantra for the tournament.”

“I was sort of strangely calm the last day. It was surreal, it was fun, it was a dream day . . . it was the best day of my life,” said Wonnell of his victory, his first in STPGA competition. Wonnell graduated from the PGA program at Clemson University in 2010.

Wes Skaggs, the head golf professional at Crystal Falls Golf Course in Leander, and Scott Johnson, the director of instruction at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club, finished in a fourth-place tie at 70-74-71—215 and 71-70-74, respectively.

With the STPGA Professional Championship serving as the STPGA’s qualifying event for the PGA Professional Championship, Wonnell, Gibson, Cooper, Skaggs and Johnson are all set to play in the 2013 national championship, which will take place June 23-26, 2013 at Oregon’s Sunriver Resort.

Also qualifying for the national event are: Mike Kullberg (sixth place at 71-75-71—217), and assistant professional at Blackhorse Golf Club in Cypress; Robert Thompson (76-76-67—219), and instructor at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity; Brad Lardon (71-74-74—219), director of golf at Miramont Country Club; Lonny Alexander (72-73-74—219), defending champions and an instructor at Austin’s Onion Creek Club; Troy Schleicher (69-74-76—219), head golf professional at Willow Creek Country Club; in Spring; and Tim Hobby (71-75-74—220), instructor at The Club at Sonterra in San Antonio.

Alternate qualifiers, determined in a four-man sudden-death playoff, are: Ben Willman, an instructor at Canongate at Lake Windcrest in Magnolia: Eric Bogar , assistant professional at Sugar Creek Country Club in Sugar Land: and Steve Parker, a PGA of America Life Member from Houston.

Complete results of the 2012 STPGA Professional Championship can be found here.


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