Gray cashes in on last birdie chance

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - ROBERT YATES

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/THOMAS METTHE

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.