No more waiting

Weibring breaks 0-for-64 drought in majors, defeats Funk by a shot at Five Farms

Seniors Players Championship

October 13, 2008|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

D.A. Weibring tried his hardest not to get too emotional yesterday.

For the most part, he was successful. He tried not to cry after his final putt dropped. Instead, he bit his lip, blinked like a man caught looking directly into the sun and then shuffled across the green in the direction of his wife, Kristy.

But by the time he threw his arms around her, the emotion of it all was a bit too much. There were tears, however brief. This was no time to be stoic. It was time to celebrate all of life's blessings, and time to celebrate the biggest victory of his life.

For the first time, Weibring had earned the right to call himself a major championship winner.

The humble, round-faced 55-year-old Illinois native shot a final-round 68, and on the strength of clutch pars on Nos. 17 and 18, he hung on to win the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship at Baltimore Country Club, one shot ahead of Takoma Park native Fred Funk.

Weibring finished with a 9-under-par 271, won $390,000, and broke a 0-for-64 drought in majors during his career. That includes several near misses on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour.

"I've always been a little bit emotional, but it's meaningful for me," Weibring said. "I can't help it. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't have someone to share it with. That's the way I feel about it."

Funk, the former golf coach at the University of Maryland, had some chances to win a tournament in his home state for the first time, but he couldn't quite come all the way back from a sloppy third-round 72. He shot a bogey-free 66, but he couldn't quite coax in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff.

"I went out today with a whole different positive attitude," Funk said. "Instead of being mad, I just went out and enjoyed the walk, the golf, and the competition. ... I think my wife (Sharon) probably wore out the battery in her cell phone last night calling me and telling me to get my head out of my (butt)."

Calming family advice seemed to be a common theme atop the leaderboard yesterday. Weibring, whose son Matt plays on the Nationwide Tour, carried a special hand-written note in his pocket the entire day. It was a transcription of a text message his daughter-in-law, Stephanie, had sent him before his final round.

"She really has become our little sports psychologist," Weibring said. "She gives Matt a thought or two every day when he goes out to play or practice, and she's been doing that with me."

He jotted it down her note on hotel stationary , and looked at it several times to calm his nerves.

"It was real basic stuff: 'Play with confidence. Enjoy being in this position. Have fun,' " said Weibring, who took the outright lead with back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12. "When you get a little nervous, it's just straightforward stuff. It's more meaningful because she took the time to think about her father-in-law. ... It just put a smile on my face."

Weibring looked at the note one last time walking up the 16th fairway, the beginning of a three-hole stretch that ultimately decided the tournament. Up ahead, Ben Crenshaw had just missed a birdie putt from four feet on 17 that would have tied for the lead, and on the 18th hole, he drove it in the rough and made bogey.

"I think like everyone I just had a devil of a time trying to putt around here," said Crenshaw, who finished tied for third at 7-under par. "You can read the lines, but to get the pace right is really difficult."

Weibring made an easy par on 16 to remain at 9-under, but on the 17th hole, it looked like Nick Price was about to take control of the tournament. Weibring over-cooked a 5-iron through the green into the rough, leaving him a dangerous downhill pitch. Price stepped up and hit a perfect approach inside four feet.

Weibring hit a delicate chip that ran 10 feet past the hole, leaving him a tricky par putt that broke to his right. When he stroked it, even he thought it was a miss, pursing his lips and walking toward it with disgust. But the ball trickled right just enough and circled the hole like water disappearing down a bathtub drain.

"I'm not sure how it hung in there, but it did," Weibring said. "I'm sure my facial expression showed that. I was thinking, 'Oh my.' In this game, we hit so many shots, so many putts and chips, that we think we hit perfect and they don't work out. I guess maybe we're supposed to feel guilty when one goes in and we don't do it. I just thought, that was a great break."

Weibring got another big break when Price's birdie put barely grazed the hole, leaving the South African steamed as he walked to the 18th tee.

Weibring, in contrast, was thinking about all the times growing up in Illinois , all those positive memories and moments that made him believe he could be a professional golfer when few others believed it could happen.

Price hit his drive in the right rough, and went on to make bogey. Weibring ripped a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway.

His approach from 162 yards landed 40 feet below the hole, but once again, with his nerves racing, Weibring's thoughts turned to family.

When his two daughters, Katey and Allie, were little, he used to practice putting with them on the green standing by the hole. They would roll the balls back him. Katey, now a professional dancer, and Allie, now a junior at Oklahoma University, would play with big felt-tipped markers, and to see the line, Weibring visualized in his head that his daughters had drawn a line 55on the the green with big colored markers, a line that traveled from his ball to the hole.

"As I saw the putt on 18, I swear I saw a nice red line going up there to the hole," Weibring said.

The putt had nearly eight feet of break, but it cozied up next to the hole, almost like it was giving it a hug, and as walked up to tap it in for par and complete the win, Weibring could not wait to give his family a hug as well.

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