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Irby-Matthews rivalry stirs again in county Seniors

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The Scott Irby-Charles Matthews rivalry in the Seniors division stirred again in the 40th annual H.W. Weatherford/Wilson County Amateur Golf Championship at Wedgewood Public Golf Course on Saturday and Sunday.

Seven shots out of the lead after the 62-year-old Matthews blistered the par-72 Wedgewood layout with a 7-under 65 on Saturday, the 69-year Irby answered with a 3-under 69 in Sunday’s final round and his 72-69—141 ruled the division by three shots. Matthews faded to a 65-79—144.

Irby, twice a Men’s Open champion, claimed his fourth Seniors crown. Irby and Matthews have battled head-to-head for the championship three of the last four years — with Matthews prevailing in a playoff in 2016.

While Irby returned to the championship circle, Doug Barnes, in Legends; Ricky Joyner, in Super Seniors; and Patch Wilkinson, in Women’s Open, repeated. With the best weekend of her golf career, Priscilla Brewer emerged the first Women’s Seniors winner with rounds of 82-79—161. Wilkinson owns three championships in as many tries.

IRBY’S COMEBACK

After parring the first 10 holes Sunday, Irby birdied No. 11, chipped in for eagle on the par-5, No. 14 layout; and birdied No. 17. He hit all but two greens in regulation.

Did Irby believe he could overcome a seven-shot deficit?

“If it had been 10, I would have been concerned,” he quipped. “Of course I did! I figured 2-, 3- or 4-under would win, but I didn’t think it would turn out the way I did. I had no clue that I was leading; I thought we were pretty close to even.”

Of the rivalry with Matthews, Irby responded: “We enjoy playing together and he’s a good player. I hope we get paired together the next six or eight years.”

While Irby played par golf Saturday, Matthews sizzled with seven birdies and no bogeys in carding a 34-31.

“It was the easiest round of golf I’ve ever played,” Matthews reviewed. “Today, I hit the first two greens and I was thinking: ‘Man, this is an easy game. Then I missed the next six. I hit the ball good from there, but ... I started pressing and missing short putts.”

Matthews admitted he was uncertain how to deal with a seven-shot lead.

“I am a horrible safe player,” he said. “I have never been seven shots in the lead in anything, anywhere, any time. (Irby’s) round today reminded me of my round yesterday. He was hitting every green and every fairway and every putt looked like it was going in.”

Lee Fulcher, with six birdies Sunday, surged to a 74-70—144 to share second place with Matthews. Fulcher was 4-under after 11 holes. Rick Proctor finished fourth at 72-73—145, followed by Darryl Webb at 74-73—147.

Of his latest top finish, Irby responded: “ I hope it’s not the last one.”

BARNES’ CLEAN CARD

In Legends, Barnes turned in a bogey-free final round and dominated at 76-69—145. Larry Lane took second at 79-83—162. The 75-year-old Barnes birdied Nos. 2, 6 and 11.

Barnes’ goal was to fire a 68 and finish even par for 36 holes.

“I had a clean card (no bogeys),” Barnes clamored. “It couldn’t be much better than that. Any time I have a clean card, it feels great.”

Joyner, with birdies at Nos. 3 and 13, fashioned a 72-75—147 and held off John Wooten, who shot 74-75—149 in Super Seniors. Birdies the last two holes were not enough to offset double bogeys at Nos. 3 and 9 for the frustrated Wooten. With three birdies Saturday, Joyner matched par and constructed a two-shot lead against Wooten.

“I knew it was getting close,” Joyner noted of Sunday’s round down the stretch. On Nos. 17 and 18, I was trying to be cautious. No. 18 has got me before and No. 17 can get you any time. I was OK as long as I didn’t have a big number.”

Of repeating, Joyner commented: “It feels a little better than last time because I was not sure I could do it two times in a row. It shows the old boy can still play a little bit. And I’ve always got to keep the pro happy.”

Danny Barnes finished third at 75-75—150.

WOMEN’S CHAMPS

In the Women’s Open, Wilkinson outbattled Amy Norris for the second straight year. Wilkinson posted a 77-78—155, while Norris came in at 78-81—159. Beth Rhyne finished third at 83-87—170. Wilkinson’s weekend included five birdies.

“My putting has improved from the beginning of the year,” Wilkinson remarked. “Winning it feels pretty good. I enjoy the competition I get from Amy — she keeps you going. But it’s hole-by-hole for me; each hole is the one.

“It’s just unfortunate we don’t have more people playing. It’s the same story every year.”

Assessed Norris: “I played really well for me. But Patch is really good, and my good was not quite good enough. I couldn’t gain on her; every time I parred, she parred. But it’s fun to play like that. I was hoping to be in the 70s again, but I got into a little bit of trouble on the front.”

After shooting a career-low 39 for nine holes Saturday, Brewer topped that feat with a 37 on the back nine Sunday and finished with a birdie on No. 18. She dominated with a career-best 36-hole total of 82-79—161.

“Golf lessons,” Brewer explained her improvement. “They do help.

“But I wish more women would play. I really enjoy coming out here, having fun playing with the other girls and having a good time.”

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