Jenk­ins ral­lies for ninth Clas­sic ti­tle

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - ROBERT YATES

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.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN­JAMIN KRAIN

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN­JAMIN KRAIN

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.

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