Wheeler Stewart ended the suspense in the final round of the Maryland Open by playing the first 15 holes in two under par and coasted to a three-stroke victory today at Hillendale Country Club. Stewart shot 72-219 and won $1,375.
Part-time PGA Tour player Pete Chapin of Hunt Valley carded 71 and finished second in the tournament.
Stewart, the strong, 28-year-old Congressional teaching pro, hit the ball long and straight all day and was rock-steady.
"When he hits it, you don't need to talk to the ball," said his caddy, Kenny Gantt. "It always stays on the same line."
Stewart opened the tournament with a mediocre 77, which included a penalty stroke, but said he remained confident because he was striking the ball well.
He sank an eight-foot birdie putt on the second hole today to pull even with second-round leader Jan Miller of Pine Ridge, and seized the lead for good with an up-and-down par on the par 3, seventh hole. That put Miller one stroke behind and Mark Alwin, who started the day even with Stewart, four strokes back.
What Stewart called the turning point came at the par-3, 11th hole. He presented Miller with an opening by pulling his tee shot into the rough, left of the green. But Miller yanked his tee shot even farther left, chipped onto the green and three-putted for double-bogey 5. Stewart lobbed a beautiful chip that stopped inches from the cup. He made the par and took a three-stroke lead over Miller, four over Alwin.
Stewart took total command on the following hole, the par-4 12th. Miller hooked his tee shot out of bounds and took bogey. Stewart's approach shot was short but bounced over the greenside bunker and he holed the ensuing 15-foot birdie putt for a five-shot advantage.
The only suspense that remained for Stewart, who played on the same University of Alabama team as onetime U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate, was in extricating himself from trouble on the par-5 finishing hole.
Stewart pushed his tee shot behind some trees and punched his second across the fairway, close to woods on the other side. He tried to reach the green with his third shot but the ball hit a tree limb. He chipped onto the green and two-putted for bogey 6, but, nevertheless, victory.
"I limped home," said the smiling champion, "but I'll take it."
Alwin shot 76 and Miller 77 to share third place at 223.
Marty West of Columbia shot 73 and overtook Gary Marlowe of Woodmont for low amateu. West tied pros Rick Hughes of Maryland and Woody FitzHugh of Washington at 224.
Sixty-two-year-old two-time winner Walter Romans of Baltimore Country Club shot 77 and tied amateur Perky Cullinane of Columbia at 225. CAPTION: Picture, Wheeler Stewart shows nice form on way to final-round 72 and victory in Maryland Open. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post