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Stephen Harrison traveled two hours from Smithfield, Virginia, to defend his Men's Championship last weekend at Happy Valley Country Club.
Awaiting his arrival were just three opponents in the Men's Championship division on Club Championship weekend. If disappointed with the lack of competition, the 30-year-old Harrison masked it by citing the presence of Brock Godwin, his main nemesis in seizing titles in 2015 and 2016.
"For the last three years, it has come down to Brock and I," he reasoned. "If it had been just him and me, it would have been a good tournament."
Harrison now stands 3 for 3 in Happy Valley club championships after firing rounds of 69-72 for a 3-under-par 141 total and a four-shot win against Godwin, who posted a 71-74-145.
Brandon Godwin, Brock's older brother, took third at 73-77-150, followed by Zim Hagan at 84-79-163.
Joining Harrison in the lineup of champions were Buddy Page in Seniors, Doug Barnes in Super Seniors, Dick Schlachter in Legends, Carol Owens in Women's and newcomer Mary Ann Sutton in Women's Super Seniors.
Seven birdies enabled Harrison to forge a two-shot lead against Godwin in the opening round. In Sunday's final round, a birdie at No. 9 boosted Harrison's margin to four shots. Brock Godwin then faltered by playing the next three layouts at 4-over.
"You have to play and stay in there," Brock Godwin explained of challenging Harrison. "But playing Nos. 1, 11 and 12 at 4-over is not going to get it done against a player the caliber of Stephen. I guess there's always next year."
Harrison also birdied Nos. 5 ,7, 13 and 17 Sunday. For the two days, he played the four par-5 layouts at 8-under.
"I played OK," Harrison assessed. "I made a lot of birdies. The greens seemed a lot faster and firmer today, and it was not a very comfortable wind for me.
"I think I was resiIient. I managed my way around and played the safe side on every hole. Today, I just wanted to keep the ball in the fairway and, whatever the shot, make it happen from there."
PAGE SETTLES DOWN
A two-shot leader after an opening 68, Page started shakily the final round. But he settled down after the first four holes and pulled away to a four-shot triumph in notching his first Seniors title.
Facing stout competition, Page carded a 68-76-144, followed by 2016 champion Scott Irby at 70-78_148, Leander Green at 71-77-148 and Gene Williams at 77-71-148. Williams' 1-under 71 set the final-round pace..
"We have a strong Senior group out here," Page commented, "I finally edged Irby one time and Leander hit the ball good. After the first four holes, I started hitting it solid again — that's the key."
Page's lone final-round birdie was at No. 13.
Page smiled and suggested he was not necessarily on a personal mission, but admitted: "I was trying to win. It feels good and it feels good to play good.
"My goal today was to shoot par (72) and play smart. I shot 76. But the wind bothered everybody. Thank God I hit it better on the back. It started coming together on the back."
Irby's bid dissipated midway the back nine and he mentioned the presence of too many "5's" on his scorecard.
Barnes dominated Super Seniors at 70-75-145, winning by a whopping 12 shots. Ron Vance finished second at 81-76-157.
The 74-year-old Barnes notched five birdies in his 2-under round Saturday and birdied Nos. 2 and 5 Sunday. He fashioned a 1-under 35 each of the first three nines before a sputtering conclusion. He ruled the division for the third straight year.
"This is my last go-around in this division," Barnes announced. He added with a chuckle: "I'm a lot closer to Legends than I would like to be."
The repeat champ acknowledged he missed the stern competition he usually receives from Tommy Howell, who moved away, and admitted that winning handily is "less satisfying."
Schlachter had nearly abandoned hope of defending his title. But Jack Wagamon kept giving him hope.
With an 87-87-174, Schlachter bested Wagamon by two shots. Wagamon shot 84-92-176.
"It was like we were both playing to see who could lose," Schlachter remarked. "It was just something. I didn't think I had a chance after (Saturday), and started off bad today. I didn't play as good as I should have, but I played good enough to win. I was trying to shoot a decent score."
The lead see-sawed with Wagamon owning a two-shot lead going into No. 17. Schlachter parred the last two layouts, while Wagamon suffered a triple bogey and bogey, respectively.
"I wasn't ready to play mentally," Wagamon said. "I gave it to him all weekend. I had four four-putts (including two four-putts and five three-putts Sunday)."
Finally, Wagamon joked: "I wanted him to keep his parking space one more year."
With rounds of 80-80-160, Owens dominated the Women's division. Second was Shirley Baker at 187, followed by newcomer Julie Molique at 190.
Owens mentioned contrasting 80s. She overcame a quadruple bogey on the par-4, No. 15 layout with a string of pars Saturday to build a 19-shot lead. Sunday's round was highlighted by birdies at Nos. 3, 5, 15 and 17.
She has won either the Women's or Women's Seniors crown each of the last nine years.
"This one is wonderful," she exclaimed. "I haven't been playing well lately and it meant a lot. There have been a lot of ugly rounds but this was fun."
Owens reported she heeded her husband's advice and was ecstatic with her ability to stay focused on the golf course for two days.
"Today, I wanted to go out and shoot as low as I could," she said. "Anything can happen."
Sutton claimed the Women's Seniors title with an effort of 90-93-183 and noted she did not realize she was unopposed.
"I saw a lot of women out here yesterday and I never saw a sign-up sheet," the newcomer said. "I didn't play well enough to do anything."
Results Saturday and Sunday in the annual Men’s and Women’s Championships at Happy Valley Country Club.
Stephen Harrison 69-72—141
Brock Godwin 71-74—145
Brandon Godwin 73-77—150
Zim Hagan 84-75—159
Buddy Page 68-76—144
Scott Irby 70-78—148
Leander Green 71-77—148
Gene Williams 77-71—148
Lee Fulcher 75-74—149
John Wooten 75-77—152
Rick Proctor 75-82—157
Chris Church 79-78—157
Doug Barnes 70-75—145
Ron Vance 81-76—157
Rick Watson 81-82—163
Tommy Barnes 85-88—173
Dick Schlachter 87-87—174
Jack Wagamon 84-92—176
Carol Owens 80-80—160
Shirley Baker 99-88—187
Julie Molique 99-91—190
Mary Ann Sutton 90-93—183