June 7, 2014

Now they know

Farm novices claim title

Course knowledge can help a golfer have a better score and might make the difference in winning a tournament.

Don’t tell that to the Macon duo of Phil Hardin and Gay McMichael.

Before this week, Hardin had never played The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, and McMichael had just one round there to his credit. That didn’t stop them from winning the 14th annual Clay Dykes Invitational, a 54-hole senior four-ball tournament.

Hardin and McMichael shot an 11-under-par 216 to win the tournament by three strokes over Jerry Hudgins and Mike Rice, four-time champions at the event. What Hardin and McMichael lacked in knowledge, they made up for in teamwork.

“We ‘brother-in-lawed’ it throughout the tournament,” McMichael said. “When one of us was having a bad hole, the other was there to pick it up.”

The winning pair’s inexperience with the course showed a bit in Wednesday’s first round, when they opened with a 73 and were tied for fourth but four strokes back of leaders William Fuller and Rick Thompson. However, Hardin and McMichael shot a 64 in Thursday’s second round before finishing with a 68.

After just one competitive round on the course, their shots started finding pins and their putts started to drop in.

“I had played one time before, and we had a blast this week,” McMichael said. “The greens are very difficult, but they roll so perfectly.”

This was just the second time the tournament had been played on the course’s new MiniVerde Bermuda greens. The course changed its greens from bent grass in 2012, but the greens have seasoned and firmed up much more over time.

“For a golf course that requires local knowledge, to come in the first time in this tournament and win, that is pretty good golf right there,” said Deck Cheatham, The Farm’s director of golf and a PGA of America professional. “The golf course is playing tougher, and you have to attribute that to the new greens. It requires a lot more precision. If you hit the ball in the wrong spot, the course will bite you.

“Players said it was more difficult to get the ball close to the hole. (Hardin and McMichael) figured it out.”

In the final round, Hardin and McMichael were finding the right spots with shots that kept them in the red. McMichael had the shot of the day in the final grouping with an iron from the 18th fairway that ended up 8 inches from the hole. A two-stroke swing resulted when McMichael made his birdie putt and Hudgins missed his birdie attempt from 3 feet, but with a one-stroke lead coming to the 18th tee, par would have still won it.

“We met a lot of nice guys and really had a great time,” Hardin said. “It is a beautiful golf course.”

Hudgins and Rice — who had rounds of 69, 69 and 70 this year — won the tournament in 2008 and three straight years from 2010 to 2012. Rice, who won the U.S. Senior Amateur at The Farm in 2005, also won a Clay Dykes Invitational title with Bill Ploeger in 2002.

John Darr and Rick Luzar, last year’s champions and the 2009 winners, finished third in the first flight at 211 (74-69-68).

In the super senior first flight, Bob Hullender and Richard Tatum turned in the low score of the tournament, shooting a 199 with rounds of 67, 66 and 66. They finished seven strokes ahead of Don Woods and Max Matthews, who finished at 206 (75-67-64) and had Friday’s low round.

Charlie Busbee and Paul Cobb (73-72-73 — 218) won the super senior second flight over Michael McAdams and Mike Towson (74-80-73 — 227).

In the second flight, Frank Brown and Bill Conner (72-66-73 — 211) won, followed by John Mitchell and Steve Schwartz (71-74-72 — 217) and Bill Boyden and Roger O’Neil (71-76-71 — 218).

In the third flight, Scott Northey and Billy Hatton won with a 212 (72-72-68), followed by Buzz Alexander and Dick Donegan (73-68-75 — 216) and Bill Myers and Randy Sock (74-70-76 — 220).

The fourth-flight winners were Mike Steed and Scott Hales (73-77-72 — 222), followed by Bill Patrick and Wyatt Shows (74-72-81 — 227) and Don Lieb and John Pohl (78-77-73 — 228).

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