LANCASTER – One day after breaking the Lancaster Country Club course record with a 64, Kevin Kraft came out Wednesday for the final round of the 102nd Pennsylvania Open trying to protect a 4-stroke lead. It wasn't easy.
The putts weren't falling like they did Tuesday and 58-year-old Stu Ingraham kept the heat on Kraft on the back nine, twice drawing to within a stroke of the lead. But Kraft made solid two-putt pars on the final two holes for a 2-over-par 72 and held on for a 1-stroke victory.
"I hit good shots, but the putter was nowhere to be seen," said Kraft, 47, of Harrisburg, who finished at 6-under 204. "The two birdies I made today were from 4 inches and 4 ½ feet. So when you're not getting anything to go in, even starting out with a 4-shot lead, which is nice, you know it's not going to be easy. I knew Stu wasn't going to make it easy."
Ingraham, an eight-time player of the year and seven-time senior player of the year in the Philadelphia Section PGA, trailed by 5 shots at the turn but birdied the 10th (on a chip-in) and 12th holes while Kraft bogeyed 11 to close to within 2. Kraft then missed a 4-foot par putt on the 14th that reduced the margin to one.
Kraft stuck his approach at the par-4 15th to 4 ½ feet and birdied the hole, but he gave the shot back with a bogey at 16 to make it a 1-stroke gap again. After pars on 17, each player hit the par-4 18th in two but Ingraham missed a 30-foot birdie try and Kraft two-putted from 20 feet for the win and the $8,000 first prize.
"I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled," Kraft said of the way he played the 18th.
As it turned out, Kraft needed the par because Malvern's Cole Willcox, playing in the group ahead of him, birdied the last two holes for a 67 to post 5-under 205. Ingraham missed a 3-foot par putt on 18 and his bogey dropped him to third at 206.
"I've got to look at it as a positive," said Ingraham, the 1998 Pennsylvania Open champion who is teaching pro at M-Golf in Newtown Square. "It was a great week for me. If someone said you weren't going to shoot over 70 at Lancaster Country Club, I'd say, 'At my age, I'd have to be pumped about that.'" I made a lot of good shots."
Kraft, who is a club-fitter for the 2nd Swing golf store in Wilmington, called his victory "humongous."
"I can't express how big this is … to come here and do this against this field," he said. "You've got to qualify to get in here so it's not just pay and play. That's huge. I know a lot of the guys that play in the section. There's a lot of great players. It's just an amazing feeling. Honestly, one of my lifelong dreams."