WARREN - The wait is over and the drought has been lifted.
"It's a relief, really," said Nate Nichols, the 2013 Professional Putters Association Northern Open champion.
But he didn't know of his new title until the very end.
Tribune Chronicle / Matthew Peaslee
Nate Nichols of Columbus, Ind., putts during Sunday’s round of the PPA Northern Open at the Putt-Putt in Warren. Nicholas won the tournament with a 209.
"Not until I turned my scorecard in and they told me," Nichols said. "I knew I put up a good number and it was going to take a good number to beat me. There's just too many good players and anything could have happened."
Nichols, a 38-year-old school teacher, captured his first national Putt-Putt tournament title after 10 years on the tour with an eight-round score of 209.
"I've been in the hunt in about seven majors," Nichols said. "I won a doubles championship a few years ago, but never a medal play tournament like this. I've been close a few times but it feels good to finally get one because then you can go out and relax a little bit. All of your buddies got one and I can be a part of the conversation.
"Now, it's nice to get one and head back home."
He resides in Columbus, Ind., and with summers off, he devotes much of his time to practicing and finding putt-putt tournaments across the country. Nichols plans to play in Louisville, Ky. next weekend. For his first-place finish, Nichols earned $1,500.
"I'll put it back into my putt-putt and mini golf fund," he said. "Just put it in the kitty and keep going."
Nichols shot two rounds of 23 on Sunday. He finished the fourth round shooting 11 on the front nine and 12 on the back. He had 14 hole-in-ones in the final round. Jeff Carr, Rick Alessi and Angelo Korogianos also shot a round of 23 over the weekend.
"You have to be lucky to shoot a 23 on this course," Nichols said. "Anybody will tell you that."
Chris Chafin, Kevin Rutledge, Tony Varnadore, Tim Jones, Jim Cruse, Rick Rybaczek, Dan McCasin and Charlie Greenwalt shot at least one round of 24. Greenwalt tied with Jeff Spanhour for second place, each shooting 211 over the weekend.
"Second is the first loser still but it's been a while since I finished in the top 5," said Greenwalt, an Indianapolis native.
Hailing from the same state as Nichols, the two have forged a friendship over the years. They each practice at a well-kept Putt-Putt in Central Indiana, much like the one owned by Renea Ackerman on state Route 422.
"Nate is progressively playing more and more and getting better," Greenwalt said. "He's been wanting a victory and he earned it over the weekend. "He's learning to play where he can make them all. He isn't afraid to take a risk and be up at the top."
In 2010, the last time the Warren Putt-Putt hosted the Northern Open, Atlanta native Jay Klapper won the title with a score of 208. Since then, he's picked up a new method of focus for the course.
"I was hypnotized for confidence, concentration and relaxation," said Klapper, who checked in with a 224 this weekend. "That made it a lot easier and I still do the hypnosis part when I go out there."
Local putter Dave Jones shot a 240, but only broke 30 once on Sunday. His best round was a 28 which he earned twice on Saturday. Varnadore led the tournament entering Sunday and finished in fourth with a 213. Korogianos, a Toledo native, finished tied for third with a 212.
The next big professional tournament is the first week of September in Burlington, N.C. Nichols, and a few others, will also play in miniature golf-style tournaments. Nichols takes a week off of work in October to play in Myrtle Beach.
"The competition is much better in this," he said. "The competitions are much more skillful. So, it's way more difficult to win a putt-putt tournament than miniature golf."
John Kroponiak won the amateur division title by five strokes with a 220.