Covich team wins pro-am Monday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Sometimes it’s OK to go along for the ride.

Hopping aboard the coattails of their pro Jerry Covich, Sonny Watts, Mike Lawson and Art Matthews edged out two other teams to capture the 2003 Isle of Capri Gulf States Professional Golfers Association Pro-Am at Beau Pr Country Club Monday.

The foursome shot a 124, or 20-under, on the strength of a blistering round from Covich during a surprisingly fall-esque day.

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&uot;Our pro got us off to a real good start when we birdied No. 14, which is one of the hardest holes out there,&uot; said Matthews of Meridian, who owns 103.3 FM. &uot;We had a couple low handicappers in our group and the pro made seven birdies, which is what won it for us.&uot;

The Pro-Am kicked off one of the GSPGA’s last stops of the year, where 26 golfers will compete in a 36-hole stroke play event to earn points on the tour.

Fifteen will race to the top of the leaderboard as a part of the 50-59 age group, while 11 golfers will vie for the Super Senior Championship from 60-years and up.

This week’s event acts as a major when a year-end Gulf States Senior Player of the Year, which is determined from the Mississippi and Louisiana chapters.

&uot;Back in the day these fellows played with some pretty good players,&uot; tournament director Todd Wright said. &uot;There’s a lot of history with these guys. Most of these gentlemen are the heart and soul for why there is a Gulf South section.&uot;

The PGA is comprised of 41 sections nationwide, with Louisiana and Mississippi making up the GSPGA, which puts on anywhere from 60 to 80 events yearly.

Six participants &045; Larry Griffin, Rich Fulkerson, Bobby Hogan, Stan Stopa, Robert Chrestman and James Wright &045; will play in the Senior Club Professional Championship, still a part of the overall tournament, but with greater importance.

The top three will advance to participate in the national SCPC in Port St. Luce, Fla., in late October.

&uot;There was a deadline to enter and they made the decision to try and qualify for it,&uot; Wright said. &uot;It’s a very competitive tournament.&uot;

One of those, as mentioned, is Fulkerson, last year’s winner at Beau Pre. Ironically, Fulkerson, from Pine Belt National Golf Club in Moselle, and the aforementioned Covich, out of The Oaks Golf Club in Pass Christian, have ruled the nest on the GSPGA recently.

However, with four rookies set to tee it up today, there is an air of freshness mixed in with the old rivalries, Wright said.

&uot;The young guys look up to the older guys for what they’ve achieved, in addition to knowing they paved the way for them,&uot; he said. &uot;This is a great chance for them to get back and talk about old times and old matches.&uot;

Wright said he gets more pleasure from his cozy job by just pulling up a chair and listening to the fat being gnawed off the bone by some wonderful storytellers.

&uot;I love just putting a recorder in the middle of them and letting them tell their stories,&uot; he said. &uot;All you have to do is get them started and let them go.&uot;

Starting tee times begin at 9 a.m. today on a Beau Pre Course that does not look like heavy rains came through the area over the last week.

Choosing Natchez as a stop on the tour was a no-brainer for the GSPGA, since it is centrally located for both states, Wright said.

&uot;What we appreciate is not just the club, but the whole city,&uot; he said. &uot;The members are always very appreciative when we come. They’re very hospitable to let us have the course for a couple of days.&uot;

Wright believes he has never seen Beau Pre, still a young course, in better shape.