When Scott Stallings stroked a 5'9" putt on the 18th green at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WVA, last Sunday afternoon, a few Savannah Lakes Villagers held their breath.
As the ball clunked into the bottom of the cup, Stallings dropped his putter and raised his arms in victory, and Rhonda Folio and Steve and Linda Manion finally exhaled.
Stallings is one of the hundreds of young golfers who have played in the annual Savannah Lakes Village Classic at Monticello Golf Course each spring. When he played here in 2008--09, the Manions hosted him and his wife, Jennifer.
A few years earlier, Folio had the pleasure of coaching the Academic All American golfer at Tennessee Technical University in Cookeville.
"I was assistant coach of both the men's and women's teams at Tennessee Tech," said Folio. "Scott was the team captain in his senior year. He was very dedicated and led the team in work ethic, and now that is paying off."
Folio taught golf at TT and wrote a book about teaching golf with the head golf coach, Bobby Nichols. "The book is written as a text book for college golf classes," she said.
Folio moved to McCormick almost a year ago to oversee the construction of her home, which overlooks the chipping green at Monticello. "I've always wanted to live on a golf course, and this is just wonderful," said Folio.
"Scott was on the Dean's List and graduated from the college of business," she said. "Scott's sister was my graduate assistant in my last year there. I've stayed in touch with both of them via FaceBook."
After Manions hosted Stallings for the 2008 Village Classic, he stayed with them during other tournaments in Augusta and during a visit to the Masters Tournament.
"The first time they stayed with us, Scott and Jen had been married for just six months," Steve said. "They are really nice kids, and we kind of adopted them. We've stayed in touch ever since."
Jennifer caddied for Scott, but Steve relieved her for a day or two in the two Village Classic tournaments.
"Scott had never been to the Masters, and he got tickets in 2009," Steve said. "He and a buddy had a week off and stayed with us when they went down to Augusta National. After he left, he faxed us and wrote, 'It's a great place, but I won't go back until I play in it.' Now he'll be playing in it next year."
Stallings, now 26 and a rookie on the PGA tour, started the year slowly. He missed the cuts in his first tournaments, and his mentor, PGA star Kenny Perry helped get him in a tournament. Stallings made Perry look good by finishing third.
He opened last week's tournament with a 70, but posted rounds of 65 and 66 to put himself in contention for victory on Sunday. After playing par golf on the front nine holes, he scored five birdies on the back nine.
The most important was a birdie on 18 that gave him a 69 and put him into a three-way playoff for the win. The playoff was on the same 18th hole that he had just birdied. He had not birdied that hole during his first three rounds.
"I hit the same ball off the same tee on the playoff hole that I used on the 18th in regulation," he said after the tournament. Stallings was the third golfer to tee off. He hit a nine-iron on the 168-yard-long hole, nearly duplicated his shot in regulation and his ball was closest to the hole.
Both competitors missed their putts, Stallings' putt curled from left to right into the center of the cup, and Folio and the Manions rejoiced. The victory gives Stallings more than $1 million in winnings thus far this season.