Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to The Wilson Times.
Needing 22 years to finally accomplish the task anything but diminished David Lee’s excitement.
And the 48-year-old Lee, the City of Wilson Parks and Recreation Director, proved convincing in capturing his first H.W. Weatherford Memorial/Wilson County Amateur Golf Men’s championship on a fall-like Sunday afternoon at Wedgewood Public Golf Course.
“I’m a happy man,” Lee clamored after firing rounds of 76-74 for a 3-under-par 141 total and a five-shot victory after two rounds of stroke-play competition Saturday and Sunday over a 6,450-yard layout that turned demanding in Sunday’s windy conditions.
“I have been playing 22 years and I’ve come close,” Lee continued. “But I had never put together two rounds. I have been wanting this one badly.”
Lee owned the low round both days in the Championship Flight and reasoned: “If you shoot the low round both days, you can’t lose.”
Michael Dunn, who plays sporadically in the county championship, emerged the runner-up with a 69-77—146, followed by perennial contender Clint O’Hara, Chance Cox and Matthew Ellis at 148. O’Hara fired a 69-79, while Ellis shot 74-74 and Cox fashioned a 73-75.
Brandon Godwin chipped in for a birdie on the first hole of a three-way playoff to seize the Championhip B title against runner-up Mark Whitley and third-place Matt Figg. Each carded a 36-hole total of 151.
Patch Wilkinson, in Women’s, and Doug Barnes, in Legends, repeated as champions of their respective divisions. First-time victors were Rick Joyner in Super Seniors and Lee Fulcher in Seniors.
Lee’s 67 Saturday included eight birdies. He said he “got rolling” with birdies at 9, 10, 11 and 12 and closed with birdies at Nos. 16, 17 and 18 en route to a sizzling 5-under 31 the back nine. The left-hander who played collegiately at North Carolina State birdied Nos. 7, 14 and 16 Sunday.
Lee revealed the championship in an individual tournament was his first since high school and quipped: “Being 48, it was my time to win one.”
Going into the final round, Lee led Dunn and O’Hara each by two shots. O’Hara managed three birdies and an eagle in shooting 69, while Dunn had four birdies.
And after10 holes Sunday, Lee found himself deadlocked with Dunn for the lead, who was 1-under until encountering a double bogey at No. 11.
Late in the round, Dunn lamented: “I see why I don’t play competitively any more.”
Lee’s final-round target was to match par of 72 and he reached that point with a birdie at No. 16. Then came a hiccup — a double bogey — on No. 17 before Lee scrambled for a closing par.
“That bothered me a little,” Lee admitted, “but I wanted to make sure I didn’t turn a 7 into a 9. I knew it was going to be tough. There were a lot of good golfers out here. Eighteen Wilson Cuppers played. I was just trying to get back to even par and (with the conditions) I didn’t expect anybody to go low. Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12 were brutal.
“I finally putted good. I finally felt like I could see the break and read the greens. The course played hard (Sunday); the wind made it tough. But I put myself in the right spot (with shots).”
Also under par Saturday were Coalter Paxton IV with a 2-under 70 and Brandon McKeel with a 71.
“I hit the ball awful and I didn’t putt well,” O’Hara lamented. “That’s a bad combination.”
Fulcher, in Seniors, outdueled long-time friend Chris Church. Fulcher posted a 71-75—146, while Church came in at 72-76—148.
Coalter Paxton III and Darryl Webb, in a rate tourney appearance, deadlocked for third at 153. Grouped at 154 were former champ Scott Irby, Danny Brite, Gene Williams and Rick Proctor.
“I really don’t know how I feel,” Fulcher responded. “Old, I guess. But any time you win, it feels good. It has been a tough summer.”
Jump-starting Fulcher was Saturday’s 1-under 71 (three birdies) that left him a shot ahead of Church, playing in just his third county championship.
Fulcher seemed to be pulling away Sunday until Church birdied No. 10 and eagled the par-5, No. 14 layout. However, Church bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 and watched a 4-foot birdie attempt on No. 17 slide by the cup. However, a triple bogey at No. 12 nagged Church.
“I couldn’t stay focused,” he admitted. “I thought it would be fun and it certainly was. But I stopped keeping up with the score. We have known each other since 1982 and I am happy for (Fulcher). I just laid down on the back and lost focus.”
But on the No. 18 tee, Fulcher informed Church of the one-shot difference — with Fulcher leading. Fulcher scrambled for par, while Church’s par putt missed.
“Chris played good except for a couple of shots,” Fulcher reviewed. “I just knew I didn’t want to short-side myself and, if I had made some putts ... I hit the ball good both days; I didn’t miss many shots. I didn’t roll the ball as good today.”
Bubba Strickland won the Seniors B at 158, edging Johnny Whitley by a shot.
Joyner, in Super Seniors, dominated at 76-73—149. Opening-round leader Tom Pittman wound up second at 74-81—155. Pittman, who often encouraged Joyner during the round, sputtered the last three holes, going 6-over.
The 62-year-old Joyner took command Sunday with a round that included two birdies.
“It’s about time,” remarked the grinning Joyner. “I was finally able to close it out. I am normally hanging around; it feels good.
Turning points were obvious for Joyner. After his third shot on No. 9 rolled off the green, he recovered to par the par-5 layout. He hit his tee shot in the water on the par-3, No. 10 layout — and still salvaged par. Then came a birdie at No. 11.
“I was happy camper,” Joyner commented of the par at No. 10. “That kept me going.”
Barnes, in Legends, entered the final round with a five-shot cushion and didn’t waver although his only birdie came at No. 17.
“He makes too many pars,” observed Danny Barnes, who finished third.
Barnes posted a 71-76—147, followed by Wayne Gill in his best tourney showing at 79-75—154 and Danny Barnes at 77-79—156. Doug Barnes’ round on Saturday was highlighted by three birdies.
“I think I’m lucky,” Doug Barnes, age 74, noted. “They lowered the Legends age to 65 and that brought all the young guys back. I played decently (Saturday) and so-so today.
“Today, I just wanted to shoot 75. With a 5-6 shot lead and with the wind today, I thought a 75 would get it done.”
In the Women’s Championship, Wilkinson overcame a four-shot deficit after Saturday’s opening round. Sunday’s 84 included three birdies.
Wilkinson repeated at 91-84—175. Amy Norris responded with her best showing, taking second at 91-86—177, chipping in for par on the final layout to edge first-round leader Pat Fagala by a mere shot. Fagala had an 87-91—178.
“I’m getting too old for this,” Fagala said, “but I stayed with her (Wilkinson) the front nine.”
Wilkinson capitalized upon her distance off the tee.
“My putting and short game were not very good,” Wilkinson explained. “That’s why I have to hit the ball long.”
Wilkinson utilized her second championship to promote women’s participation and fun.
“I wish more ladies would come out and have fun,” she expressed. “I do it for the fun and the chance to meet different people. It’s not about the score.
“Of course, I’m glad to win it, but it’s more about the participation than anything else.”