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Cliff Merritt tournament: Black knickers win again

NATCHEZ — The weather Saturday was just right for the second annual Cliff Merritt Invitational Golf Tournament at Beau Pré Country Club.

And the 72 players who participated in this year’s event had a good time and played some outstanding golf. And all for a good cause — to raise money for the Miss-Lou Relay for Life.

“The weather is just spectacular,” tournament director Howard Jones said. “We had a lot of rain (Friday). You’ve got to give a lot of credit to superintendent Dee Barron. He and his crew had to get a lot of water out of the fairways. The course is perfect.”

The participants were out there to show their appreciation and support for Merritt, the president of Delta Bank in Vidalia, who has been battling colon cancer for several years.

And while the black knickers team won the tournament for the second year in a row, everyone was a winner. All the proceeds go to the Miss-Lou Relay for Life.

The only thing the golfers had to endure was a stiff northwest wind, which at times gusted to nearly 30 miles per hour.

“I had a good time. Thank God the wind didn’t blow any harder,” said Brian Simpson, who played on the khaki knickers team. “Cliff is a good friend of mine. Whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do it. If it’s playing golf or whatever. If he asks me to cut his yard, I’ll do it.”

Avery Middleton teamed up with Tom Matthews as part of the black knickers team, and the two did well. Middleton said he not only liked the format, but the clothing everyone had to wear.

“What makes this tournament different is everyone has to wear khakis,” Middleton said. “I like having to play three nine-hole matches. It feels kind of Ryder Cup-ish. They don’t have many of these, so you get to play them when you can.

“It’s really fun. We won all three matches. I hit the ball well. It’s really good playing and all the funds going to Relay for Life. It’s definitely different.”

play them when you can.”

Bob Flury said the tournament was great.

“It’s beautiful weather. There was great companionship, good golf, good food and a good event for a good cause. I recommend everyone to participate next year if they can,” Flurry said. “I appreciate all the workers and volunteers who helped where it was needed.

“It was a blast. There was a lot of good fellowship. I had a good time,” said khaki knickers team member Paul Morse. “That’s why everyone came out here — for the cause.”

Another pairing that did well for the black knickers team was that of Jordan Farmer and Dr. Craig Bradford.

“It was a blast. The last year’s been a lot of fun,” Farmer said. “We played well today. We won all three of our matches. We played good together and had a good time. It was cool and windy this morning, but the course dried out really good and the greens played great. A lot of fun.”

And there were some members of the banking business from Louisiana and Mississippi who came out and played in this tournament who have known Merritt for quite some time. Among those were Steve Panepinto of Plaquemine, La., who teamed with Mike Riché of Raceland, La., as one duo on the khaki knickers team, as well as Bill Walker of Winnsboro, La., who was partnered with Mike Creed of Jackson, La., and they were also on the khaki knickers team.

“We had a wonderful time. We did this for the Relay for Life and our good friend, Cliff Merritt,” Panepinto said.

“All four of us are bankers. We’re good friends of Cliff,” Walker said. “Beau Pré’s a great facility, and we love to come back here. This is our second year playing here, and we intend to come back. We play in it to show support for Cliff in his fight with cancer. We appreciate him raising money for cancer research.”

“This is a fine event for a fine guy,” said Bobby Meason, who was on the black knickers team. “Everybody wins. I watched my partner, Al Guido, play a lot.”

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