After his closing round at the Maryland Open yesterday, Chip Sullivan was ready to deposit his clubs in his trunk and begin the long journey home to Roanoke. Three-hundred miles of driving in the teeth of rush hour traffic loomed, and besides, his 2-under 69 did not look like it would be enough to keep him at the Country Club at Woodmore in Mitchellville.
"Next thing you know, I'm hearing people hitting it in the water and this and that," said Sullivan, who before long found himself in a three-way playoff with Bill Rislove and Dirk Schultz, all of whom finished three rounds of regulation at even-par 213. "I'm calling Dirk up to get him back here. He's already taken off and driven home. He was about 20 minutes down the road."
That's where Sullivan's charity ended, as the club professional at Ashley Plantation Country Club in Daleville, Va., overcame two lightning delays and his playing partners over four extra holes to win the Maryland state championship for the second time in three years.
"Golf, I'll tell you, I learned a long time ago, it's more about handling losses and bad shots rather than having something go well for you," Sullivan said, "and this is one of those nice experiences that I need to cherish and enjoy because they're few and far between."
For Sullivan, it came down to his composure after a poor drive at the last playoff hole and an errant approach to the green from Schultz. Moments earlier, Rislove (Fair Oaks Golf Park) had fallen from contention with a bogey 5 at the second playoff hole, leaving good friends Sullivan and Schultz to vie for the $7,000 winner's check.
"I've been talking to a sports psychologist twice a week just trying to put things in perspective a little more and realize hitting a bad shot is not that big a deal," said Sullivan, who recovered from his tee ball in the right rough by sticking his approach to eight feet.
Schultz, meantime, had to drop when his second shot from a cluster of trees in the right rough landed in the water across the fairway. His fourth shot landed past the pin and settled 25 feet above the hole, where Schultz wowed the modest gallery by sinking the putt.
"We just got to get rid of the Virginia pros," joked Schultz, the head pro at Black Rock Golf Course in Hagerstown, Md., after his fourth runner-up finish at the Maryland Open.
With two putts to win the tournament, Sullivan curled his birdie try just past the hole before tapping in from six inches.
"It's been a wonderful year so far," said Sullivan, who will play in the Virginia Open beginning today and then the PGA Championship in August. "Just keep it going, and enjoy the ride and enjoy the wave as long as it lasts."