Chappell surges early, protects lead in St. Charles Men's Golf final

ST. CHARLES – Dave Chappell’s lead in the championship match of the St. Charles Men’s Golf Tournament over Rich Balla did not look as comfortable as the two golfers approached the seventh green for the second time Sunday as it did when the pair started their second loop on the nine-hole Pottawatomie Golf Course.

Chappell was five holes up in the championship flight final when he and Balla completed their first circuit of the course. In match play, scoring is based on how many holes the golfer wins and not total strokes. 

Momentum swung over to Balla in the second half as he narrowed the lead. The six-time tournament champion still needed to take the last three holes just to force an extra hole playoff.

Chappell hit the seventh green on his tee shot, then two-putted to win the hole and the tournament, 3 and 2.

“It was a weird match because I was playing really well on the front side and I made the turn at five up," Chappell said. “We flipped roles and I started to struggle a little bit so fortunately I built up a nice lead and was able to hang on.”

“He [Chappell] played real steady on the front nine and … I couldn’t get off the bogey train,” Balla said. “I was five down at the turn and I just had to battle back from there. I got it to three. I couldn’t make a putt on 5 that would have gotten it to two. I won [No. 6]. It was there, but I didn’t get it soon enough.”  

Chappell was pleased with the way he closed out the match.

“I hit a 7 iron because I was pretty amped up and so wanted to center the green,” Chappell said about his tee shot on the seventh. “I was happy to find that green and two putt it for the win.”

Balla’s first stroke on the seventh landed in a sand bunker. He was able to chip the ball from the bunker to the green but needed two putts to sink the ball.

“I hit a good [tee] shot. I just hit about four or five yards right and it plugged in the bunker and I had no chance,” Balla said. “I just had to try and get it on the green and make a putt. It was almost impossible. I did well to get it on the green.”

Pottawatomie pro Ron Skubisz attributed the return of Balla, who last won in 2001, and several other golfers to a format change – reducing the tournament from three weekends to two.

“He would not have not normally played in the event,” Skubisz said. “We moved the tournament from three weeks to two and that allowed the opening up of his schedule to play. We actually had three champions that were able to play that normally would not have played.”

Championship rounds were also played for four other flight levels, which are based on the golfers’ handicaps.

Mike Apple won the A-Flight and needed to play all 18 holes to edge Chris Jones, 1-up. Apple also won his semifinal round on Saturday 1-up and needed 19 holes to secure the win.

“Today it was patience, a couple of key putts and couple of good up and downs,” Apple said of his latest narrow victory. “I also hit the ball pretty solid today.”

Gus Eash (B Flight), Tom McCulloch (C Flight) and Kevin Gaffney (D Flight) also prevailed in the championship round.