Brooking takes title at city championship

Published 12:01 am Monday, August 8, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Johnathan Halley lines his putt during the Bill McKinney Memorial City Golf Championship tournament Saturday afternoon at Duncan Park. Duncan Park golf course superintendent Greg Brooking won the title Sunday with a 137.

NATCHEZ — Between 1988 and 1998, Greg Brooking dominated the Bill McKinney Memorial City Golf Championship en route to winning the tournament five times.

Thirteen years later, the Duncan Park golf course superintendent can once again call himself city champion — and against arguably the toughest field ever assembled for this two-day event.

Despite not hitting the ball as long off the tee as some of his fellow competitors in the championship flight, Brooking used his short game and clutch putting to shoot a 2-under-par 69 on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon at Duncan Park for a two-day total of 5-under-par 137 for a one-shot win over first-round leader Jordan Farmer.

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“I just hung in there. The course is playing tough. The younger guys (Farmer, Trampus Butler, Oreille Lamartineire) were out-hitting me by about 50 yards,” Brooking said. “But I started putting good. And I had to chip good. And I did that.”

For most of the previous 12 tournaments, the city championship had to be settled by a playoff on the course. This one almost did, too. Brooking had a two-shot lead over Farmer going into the par-4 2nd hole — the last hole of the round.

After Brooking saw his putt for birdie go seven or eight feet past the hole, Farmer had a golden opportunity to make a birdie putt from the fringe to put the pressure on Brooking.

However, Farmer’s long putt for birdie went just to the left at the end and he had to settle for a par. Brooking missed his putt coming back for par and ended up with a three-putt bogey. But it didn’t matter as Brooking was the city champion for the sixth time.

“I’m so happy over it. I can’t quit smiling,” Brooking said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve won this. It’s a great feeling. This is the biggest tournament in Natchez. I just don’t know how I played so good. My short game came to the rescue.”

Brooking said he is going to donate his one-year membership for winning the city title to the Junior Golf Program in Natchez.

Since the last time Brooking won the city title in 1998, Jay Lessley and P.Z. Brewer each won it three times; Pete Powell won his 10th and 11th and became the only player to win in four different decades; and Lee Jones in 2002 became the youngest city champion ever. Farmer won this event in 2008 while K.G. Watkins (2006) and Wesley Rogers (2010) have each won one city title themselves.

Farmer batted a stomach virus throughout the final round and ended the tournament shooting a 1-over-par 72 to finish with a two-day score of 4-under-par 148.

Third and fourth places were decided by a scorecard playoff. And that went to Butler, who shot a final-round 71 to finish at 3-under-par 139.

“I couldn’t get nothing to go in the hole,” Butler said. “I hit it good. (It was) frustrating watching Greg make all the putts — on his own course.”

Lamartineire of St. Francisville, La., wound up in fourth place despite shooting a 1-under-par 70 for a two-day total of 139.

“I hit the ball really good. Took a penalty on 14. I addressed the ball and it moved. Had to take a one-stroke penalty. I was still a little mad and missed a short putt on 15. Had it not been for those, I may have been in a tie for the lead,” Lamartineire said. “I can’t complain. I don’t play a lot of tournament golf. I’m satisfied. I birdied two of the last four holes. Not bad for a recreational hack.”

Kevin Smith Jr. won the first flight after firing a final-round of 72 for a two-day score of 147. He finished one shot ahead of Jackson Bryant and two shots better than Keith Rayborn.

“I putted better today. I made some putts. I gained some confidence,” Smith Jr. said. “I was 6-over after six holes (for the day). I made six birdies and one bogey after that. Made some good putts. It was equally as hot (as it was on Saturday). Tried to find as much shade as possible and drink a lot of water.”

Charlie Fife, who has been playing in this tournament since the late 1950s, said the course was is in the best shape ever.

“I’ve been playing many courses across the U.S. If (the front nine) here was 600 or 700 yards longer, it would be as tough as any nine you would have,” Fife said.

Eighty-year-old Clayton Foster shot a final-round 73 on Sunday – seven shots under his age. And this is not the first time he’s accomplished this feat. He did the same thing just three years ago when he shot a 70.

“My putting improved a lot from (Saturday). I hit the ball real good today,” Foster said. “I had a good group to play with. I was relaxed. When you’re relaxed, you can play golf better.”

Ninety-five players participated in this year’s Bill McKinney Memorial City Golf Championship. When asked if he was surprised about the turnout considering the heat wave that has gripped much of the region, Brooking said, “As far as being surprised, people kept calling. This was the best turnout since I don’t know when.”

He added that because of the limited number of golf carts, he’s going to have to have a cut-off line at 90 to 92 players.

Three days before the tournament began, Brooking said there about 30 players – himself included – who had a legitimate shot to win the city title. But some of those contenders struggled on Saturday and shot anywhere between the mid-70s and the low-80s.

However, Brooking said he wasn’t surprised about it “because it’s golf.”