Gray cashes in on last birdie chance
Ultimately, Gray and green were a perfect match.
Stafford Gray of Lonoke sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a one-shot victory over Austin Harmon in the Maumelle Classic on Sunday afternoon at Maumelle Country Club.
Gray, a former player and assistant golf coach at Oklahoma City University, was a wireto-wire winner of the threeday, 54-hole event, finishing at 10-under-par 206.
Gray’s winning score could have been much lower, but he was unable to convert several birdie chances inside 15 feet after stellar play from tee to green over the final two rounds. “I had a bunch of like half wedges and half 9-irons this week,” said Gray, 32, a beer sales representative for Little Rock’s Moon Distributors. “That’s really a bread and butter for me. That’s why I gave myself so many opportunities. But I’m just happy to make a putt on the last — finally — and pull it out.”
Gray, who shot 3-under 69 in the final round, won the Maumelle Classic for the first time, and he received the green jacket that traditionally goes to the winner.
The victory was the second in a high-profile Arkansas State Golf Association event for Gray. He won the Fourth of July Classic in 2013 at War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock.
Paired with Harmon and Ryan Spurlock of Maumelle in the final group Sunday, Gray split the fairway with his tee shot on No. 18, a 425-yard par-4 that doglegs left.
Gray said he then “just tried to saw off a little 9-iron” on his 145-yard approach shot.
“I normally think that plays a little more uphill than it does and the wind was freshening,” Gray said. “But I actually thinned it a bit and got away with it. I think the only putts I’ve made the last two days — Austin’s been behind me and pretty much gave me the read.”
Harmon, a long hitter who had 130 yards to the pin on No. 18, tugged his gap wedge left and missed a lengthy birdie putt. For Harmon, who plans
to turn professional as early as next month, it was a third nearmiss in the Maumelle Classic. He lost in a playoff in 2014 and tied for third in 2015.
“I played well today,” said Harmon, 22. “I’m not going to go home and sulk about it. When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I played well. I left a few out there, but I did make a lot of birdies, too.”
Harmon shot 5-under 67 on Sunday to finish at 207 overall, four strokes ahead Spurlock, the 2017 Great American Conference Freshman of the Year at Arkansas Tech. Gray began the final round 7 under, one shot ahead of Spurlock and three clear of Harmon.
Harmon then birdied four of his first six holes Sunday and was within one shot of Gray with a two-putt birdie on No. 15, a 581-yard par 5. Gray dropped into a tie with Harmon (9 under) after his only blemish Sunday, a three-putt bogey on No. 16. He had earlier birdied No. 2, No. 9 and No. 12.
Mark Graham of Fort Smith won the Mid-Senior Division (40 and older) at 6-under 210. David Apperson of Memphis won the Senior Division (54 and older) at 4-under 212. A.J. Kroeger of Jefferson City, Mo., won the Super Senior Division (64 and older) at 212.
Stafford Gray of Lonoke reacts after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th hole to outlast Austin Harmon and win the Maumelle Classic on Sunday at Maumelle Country Club.