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Bland, Matthews win playoff

NATCHEZ — Eighteen holes on a cool Sunday afternoon wasn’t enough to decide the winning team in the championship flight of the 2011 Spring Pilgrimage Four-Ball at Beau Pré Country Club.

Instead, three teams ended up in a playoff. In the end, the team of Dan Bland and Tom Matthews survived with a five-foot birdie putt by Matthews on the par-4 17th hole, the third playoff hole, to claim first place after shooting a 4-under-par 68 for a two-day total of 132.

“Tom birdied so many holes that kept us in it,” Bland said.

Before ending the playoff with his approach shot and birdie putt on 17, Matthews made a tricky long birdie putt of close to 30 feet on the par-3 16th hole to keep the playoff alive for his team.

“I knew the putt broke from left to right. The speed of the putt is what worried me. Seventeen was an easy putt, right up the hill,” Matthews said. “We made a lot of putts yesterday. Today we made putts when we had to make them.”

What was amazing was how those teams got to that point. In fact, first, second and third places in that flight should not have come down to extra holes.

First, John Davis and Bill Land of Lafayette, La., set the tone by shooting an 8-under-par 64 to finish with a two-day score of 132 — and that was despite three-putting for bogey on No. 7 and No. 16.

“Two of the par-3s we three-putted for bogey. But other than that, we played really well,” Land said. “John eagled the first par-5, No. 5. We had eight birdies. Probably both of us were more consistent. The wind was a big factor today, not having any wind. It’s so much fun to watch John because he focuses so well.”

Then the unthinkable happened on the par-5 18th hole with first-round leading teams.

All the Bland/Matthews team needed was a two-putt for birdie to win the championship flight outright. No need for a playoff. Instead, Bland inexplicably three-putted for par. And if that wasn’t enough, the team of Grady Brame and Gayle Sanchez, like Bland and Matthews, got on the green in two. The difference was Brame made a putt for eagle to get into the playoff with a final-round 5-under-par 67 to finish at 132.

After all three teams parred the par-4 15th hole, the first playoff hole, Davis and Land had to settle for a par on 16 and finished third. The other two teams birdied the hole and it was on to No. 17. Brame and Sanchez ended up in second place with a par on that hole.

“We hit it okay. We didn’t putt very well, especially early in the round. We had our first bogey of the tournament on No. 4. Then we birdied 8 and 9 to get back in it,” Brame said.

The team of Frank Maxwell and Johnny Futch shot a 7-under-par 65 to finish at 134 and was among three teams that finished tied for fourth.

“We putted better. Yesterday it was horrendous. Irons were better today. We had seven birdies and no bogeys. When you’re playing with Mr. Futch, you can shoot at the pins because he doesn’t ever mess up,” Maxwell said.

The team of Hal Robichaux and Jay Coxe, both from Mandeville, La., fired a 6-under-par 66 to win the first flight with a two-day score of 136.

“Jay played good today. We hit it pretty good. It was no wind today. It was like five miles per hour today. Yesterday it was like 15 miles per hour,” Robichaux said. “Dee Barron, the superintendent, did a good job this week.”

“He carried me on my shoulders,” Coxe said. “I couldn’t keep it on the planet yesterday. Hal made all the birdies coming in. The whole place did a good job. With me being in play took a lot of pressure off him.”

Four teams finished in second place with a two-day total of 139 – Travis Hebert and Dustin Harris (71-68); Randy Moore and Dwayne David (72-67); Jay Branham and Mike Owens (72-67); and Joel Dupre’ and Jason Rooks (72-67).

“We played much better. My partner (Moore) hit some close shots. He played good today. He was steady all day. We had six birdies and one bogey,” David said.

“It was a good round, but it could’ve been a whole lot better. We had nine birdies. We had a lot of volatility,” Dupre’ said. “We only had one par on our front nine (which started on No. 10). The rest were birdies (five) and bogeys (three). Jason made six of the nine birdies.”

“Knocked a couple of shots close early Then we made a couple of long putts,” Rooks said.

Bill Byrne and Greg Brooking won the second flight after shooting a final-round 69 to finish at 142. Eddie Meche and Mark Bradshaw ended up one shot back at 143 after a final-round 70.

Avery Middleton and Steve Scarborough had a final-round score of 2-under-par 70 to take first place in the third flight with a two-day score of 144.

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