An Eagle Putt Lifts An Eagle Posted May 05, 2011 12:00 AM EDT
By John Galle

HARRISONBURG - In golf, with a putter in hand, 50 feet can seem like a mile. Directing a ball into the hole from that distance is akin to hitting a halfcourt shot in basketball or completing a Hail Mary pass in football - rare achievements.

"It's basically like a 1 in 50 chance to make that," Bridgewater College senior golfer Mike Redwood said. "You've got to get lucky to make those."

On April 19, Redwood was preparing for his third stroke on the back fringe of the par-5 18th hole at Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, tied for the lead in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament but 50 feet from the cup.

His opponent, co-leader Noah Ratner of Guilford, was eyeing a 10-foot birdie.

"There was probably about 30 people there," BC coach Lee Williams recalled. "They were the last group of the day. It was important and they knew it was tied."

Initially, Redwood thought he pushed the putt to the right. The ball, though, broke sharply to the left late and disappeared into the cup for an eagle - giving Redwood his second straight ODAC championship.

"Everyone screamed in joy, I guess except the Guilford people," Williams said of the putt. "There was a lot of jumping up and high-fiving [among] fans. It was such a remarkable putt. Such a lucky putt."

Remarkable, lucky - and clutch: Redman didn't just beat any golfers for his two league crowns. Both times, he beat the conference's Player of the Year - including Guilford's Peter Latimer in a playoff a season ago.

This week, Redwood - the first two-time ODAC champion in the league's 34-year history - was chosen as one of just five golfers (excluding qualifying teams) to compete in the NCAA Division III tournament, which begins Tuesday at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.

"My named popped up as the last one on the list," said Redwood, who was carefully monitoring the NCAA website during the announcement from noon to 3 p.m. Monday. "I guess they did the individuals in alphabetical order."

"It was more excitement than relief," he added, "because I wasn't overly expecting to get in. I thought I had a 50-50 chance."

Last season, when Bridgewater earned the ODAC automatic berth over Guilford (this year's team champion), none of the individual selections came out of the Southeast Region. This spring, there are three: Redwood, Trey Bidwell from Maryville (Tenn.) and first alternate Hudson Keener from LeGrange (Ga.), who is playing in place of Max Bonk of Pacific (Ore.), according to Williams. Defending NCAA champion Tain Lee of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Nicholas Palladino of Rochester (N.Y.) round out the five individual selections.

To help Redwood's odds in what Williams called the NCAA's somewhat "subjective" selection process, the coach armed the selection committee's Southeast regional representative, Brian Chafin, with as much ammunition as he could. Redwood ranked eighth in the country with a 73.33 stroke average in his 22½ rounds, and the Virginia Beach native also recorded a season-low 65 at the Marine Corps Intercollegiate tournament, tied for the sixth-lowest round of the season in Division III.

"It's a pretty big deal to be in the top eight in the country, out of those 1,500 golfers," Williams said. "That's why he deserved to be in the NCAA tournament."

Having Chafin - the golf coach at Centre College in Kentucky - in his corner was particularly helpful. 

"It was actually fortunate I knew him a little bit," said Redwood, who visited Centre before choosing to attend Bridgewater over Randolph-Macon and Christopher Newport. "I talk to him all the time when I see him in tournaments. It was nice to have someone who knew me to pitch my résumé and help me get [selected]."

On his 50-foot putt, Redwood said he believes that stroke probably was crucial in swaying the selection committee because it gave him his first tournament victory of the season - and a big one.

The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Redwood didn't play his best golf in his first NCAA appearance last year, shooting rounds of 81 and 74.

© 2005 Daily News-Record