Jenkins rallies for ninth Classic title
Eight was not enough for Chris Jenkins.
Jenkins birdied the final two holes for a one-shot comeback victory over Ryan Spurlock of Maumelle in the 81st annual Fourth of July Classic on a steamy Tuesday afternoon at War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock.
It was a record fourth consecutive Fourth of July Classic title for Jenkins, 47, a Little Rock health and life insurance agent, and his record ninth overall. Jenkins shot 2-under-par 62 to finish the 54-hole tournament at 7-under 185. Nick Crisco finished third at 3-under 189.
“I enjoy playing here, more than probably any other event,” said Jenkins, adding he’s competed in the Fourth
of July Classic every year since he was 16 and played the course approximately 200 times. “I grew up playing the city courses in Little Rock, so they’re important to me. I’m comfortable on them. I know the people here. All that makes me comfortable. I enjoy being here. I look forward to it.”
Jenkins trailed Spurlock by a shot with two holes remaining before closing with birdies on No. 17 and No. 18, the latter a straightaway 354yard par-4.
Jenkins, as he said he normally does, hit 3-wood off the tee on No. 18, but the shot found the light rough just left of the fairway. He lofted a full sand wedge from 103 yards to 15 feet and drained the downhill putt for birdie and the lead.
“I just picked out a spot and tried to get it there,” Jenkins said. “Man, it went right in the middle.”
Spurlock, who was making his Fourth of July Classic debut, then had a chance to force a playoff. But his 12-foot birdie putt through a damp area from just off the green was short.
“It was pretty much match play the whole round,” said Spurlock, the 2017 Great American Conference Freshman of the Year at Arkansas Tech University. “It was a grind. I made a lot of 5- to 8-footers for par today.”
Jenkins and Spurlock, 19, began the final round tied for the lead at 5-under, four shots clear of third. Paired in the final group, they each recorded one birdie and one bogey to shoot even-par 32 on the front nine. Spurlock slipped one behind when he couldn’t get up and down for par from just off the green on No. 11, a 154-yard par-3 that became more dicey because of rain and rumbles of thunder.
After a 24-minute
weather delay, Spurlock birdied No. 12, a 438-yard par-5, and took a one-stroke lead over Jenkins with a 12foot birdie putt on No. 16, a 137-yard par-3.
“It was a lot like match play,” Jenkins said. “Certainly, we didn’t know how the other guys ahead of us were doing. The golf course is so difficult on the third day. It is such a mental juggernaut that if you can get it under par the last round … somebody would have to shoot a crazy round to get us.”
Trailing by a shot, Jenkins decided to challenge No. 17, a severe downhill 147-yard par-3.
With the pin cut only about 8 feet from the right edge, Jenkins’ pitching wedge hit just right of the pin and stopped 15 feet from the cup. He made the putt to tie Spurlock heading to the final hole.
“I was one down, and there was no give in Ryan,” Jenkins said. “I knew I had to take it at the flag. It’s a little bit of a risk because it was right next to the right edge of the green. But I’ve hit to that pin before. That hole, I’m comfortable with. I hit a really good shot there.”
Jenkins shot 4-under 60 to lead Spurlock by two strokes after the first round. Jenkins also won the tournament in 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2012.
“It’s fun to battle with somebody who has had so much success, somebody I’ve always looked up to,” Spurlock said. “I’ve always known the name. Getting to play with him was awesome.”
Chris Jenkins trailed Ryan Spurlock by one stroke with two holes left in the final round of the Fourth of July Classic on Tuesday, but he birdied both holes to close with a 2-under 62 and win the event for the fourth consecutive year.
Ryan Spurlock lost the Fourth of July Classic by one stroke to Chris Jenkins at War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock. Spurlock shot a 186 for the three-day tournament, while Jenkins shot a 185.