Lessley sinks two birdies late to claim city crown

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; No stranger to the big golf tournament, Jay Lessley just kept his cool going into the back nine of the Bill McKenney City Golf Championship Sunday.

Here’s a guy who already has his named engraved on the mammoth trophy twice for past titles. He won the last tournament at old Belwood and has won two club titles at Beau Pr.

So his steady play late Sunday allowed him to win the City Championship for a third time as he shot a 1-under 70 to finish with a two-day total of 136, claiming the title by five strokes.

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&uot;I play a lot of state tournaments,&uot; said Lessley, who held a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s action. &uot;Tournament golf is my thing. It’s not quite as much pressure over here as others, but I’m used to it. When you don’t play, it’s a lot of pressure. And I haven’t played much this year. This is the best with the way I’ve played this year, and it made me feel good.&uot;

Lessley, the former University of Alabama golfer who last won the city title in 2001, played solid at the end to keep ahead of P.Z. Brewer, Howard Jones and K.G. Watkins, all of whom occupied the top four spots in the championship flight Saturday and were separated by just four strokes.

Lessley made a couple bogeys early, stayed strong and converted birdies on holes 16 and 17 to solidify his spot at the top after he sank two birdies earlier in the day on holes 3 and 4.

Jones finished second with a 73 to finish at 141, and Brewer and Watkins each shot a 75 as Brewer ended at 142 and Watkins 145.

&uot;I just kind of played steady,&uot; he said. &uot;I made a couple of bogeys early but got them back. I got the bogeys on the other side, got it to even and made two birdies to make it even par. I hit the ball well. I hit a lot of greens. I just played pretty outstanding and didn’t do anything really bad.&uot;

Out of the top four, Jones made the surge to finish second after sitting third heading into Sunday. Jones, too, had early bogey troubles but regrouped to narrow Lessley’s lead to one stroke late to make things interesting.

And even though Jones came through with a birdie on the 16th hole and overcame a hazard on the 17th, Lessley birdied holes 16 and 17 to keep his distance.

&uot;I played well,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Jay’s birdie on 17 really put a lot of pressure on me, made me gamble a little bit and allowed him to play conservative. I think that was the difference.&uot;

Watkins and Brewer, however, was bumped out of the top four spots by Larry Davis and Gary Farmer. Davis ended with a even-par 71 to finish at 141, but Farmer shot a flight-best two-under-par 69 Sunday to finish at 142.

Brewer finished behind Farmer, while Watskins tied with Jordan Farmer, who shot a 75 Sunday to finish at 145.

Defending city champ Lee Jones shot a 74 Sunday after doing the same Saturday to finish at 148.

&uot;The golf course is in great shape,&uot; Lessley said. &uot;I can’t say enough about what they’ve done out here.&uot;