LUMBERTON — Even in his early years, Kyle Covington never tried to overthink the county championship tournament, but when his job took him to Pinehurst No. 2 earlier this summer for the U.S. Open, he caught a bit of a bug.
“It gets your blood flowing,” he said. “Just being around all that golf made me want to play golf.”
It led to several weeks of extra preparation for the Robeson County Golf Championships, sponsored by Dial Insurance.
The payoff came Sunday at Pinecrest Country Club when Covington won the mens championship division for the eighth time. It’s his first win since taking five in a row from 2006 until 2010.
After making his final putt on No. 18, the crowd at the course gave him a round of applause, with one person proclaiming “The champ is back” and another jokingly asking for an autograph.
“It feels good,” Covington said.
Covington stayed consistent in the final round, posting a 2-under-par 70 to finish the weekend at 8-under 208. He avoided a late run by Nick Dial, who took second with a 4-under 212, as well as Jeff Wishart, who took third with a 214.
He stayed in nearly the same scoring range the entire weekend, having posted back-to-back 69s on Friday and Saturday. With a four-stroke lead against Wishart and at least five against the rest of the field, Covington hoped to go lower on the final day.
He didn’t go as low as he’d have liked, but a birdie on No. 1 served as a bit of an early dagger.
“Kyle plays in a different gear when he comes into tournaments,” Wishart said. “He didn’t give me and chance to catch up or put pressure on him. He birdied the first hole so I could never put any pressure on him.”
He finished the front nine at 1-under and put up another 35 on the back, struggling with putting at times.
Covington’s main competition on the final day came from the group in front of him, where Nick Dial had the best round of the tournament.
Dial, who scored a 73 and a 72 on the first two days, went 4-under before the turn to finish the day at 5-under-par 67.
He said he felt no pressure entering the round, which helped him get off to a start that included chip-ins for birdies on Nos. 5 and 9. By the back nine, Dial said the mental aspect of the game got to him on the back nine, though he kept bogey free for the day.
“Everybody was riding up telling me what I needed to do to win,” he said. “Whenever I finish strong I’m happy with that.”
The second-place finish is the highest Dial’s placed, a jump of nearly 10 spots from last year.
The top 10 players in the championship division qualified for the restored Highlander Cup tournament in October, a Ryder Cup-style event that will pit Robeson County’s best against the top players from Cumberland County.
The local qualifiers included Covington, Dial, Wishart, Dyrck Fanning, Ryan Bass, Brad Locklear, Mark Kinlaw, Andy Andrews, Mark Lassiter and Steve Pippin.
Locklear wins regular mens division
For Lonair Locklear, there was more on the line than just a trophy heading into Sunday’s round of the Robeson County Golf Championships, presented by Dial Insurance. With his brother, Larry Lynn Locklear, and his cousin, LeMark Harris, within shouting distance on the scoreboard, family bragging rights were on the line as well.
Locklear didn’t flinch away from it, scoring a 3-over-par 75 on his final round to win the mens regular division by five strokes over Phillip Wallwork and Harris.
“It sort of helped me a little bit,” Locklear said. “Then playing with Phillip (Wallwork) too. He’s an inspiration to me because he’s probably the best chipper out here.”
Locklear entered the final round with a four stroke lead over the two, but that wasn’t enough for him to walk away with a victory. The final round didn’t start off the best as he had to fight to save par.
“Off the first tee, I hit it into the trees,” he said, “but I pared the hole and I pared number two so from then on it got a little easier. After that I bogeyed number four, then I picked it up with back to back birdies and after that it was real easy until I got to ten and I missed a little putt.”
Beck takes senior title
While Donnie Beck has been in contention in past tournament, he has never really been able to close out the win. This time around, he wasn’t messing around. Beck entered the final round tied with Doug Dixon at the top of the senior division at 2-over-par 74, but he had confidence in his game.
“I felt like I was going to play really good,” Beck said. “I have been playing good as of late, and I’ve always been an underachiever. I didn’t shoot the scores I wanted to shoot, but I played pretty good.”
After an up and down round on Saturday, Beck was looking for a more consistent finale, but for the second straight day, it was a grind on the course.
“I had a bogey then turned around and had a birdie,” Beck said. “Then I had a double bogey on No. 8 and turned around and got two quick birdies and it helped my confidence.”
For Beck breaking through and winning this years senior championship was a moment he was proud of.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’ve never had an ego and never tried to win anything and didn’t care if I won or anything. I just wanted to play, and I tried this year so it means a lot to me.”
McQueen edges Miller for ladies title
Some of the tightest action on Sunday came from the ladies division.
A battle between familiar faces ensued between when Pandora Carter entered the round with a two stroke advantage over Stephanie Miller and Carmen McQueen.
“They’re good friends and great competition,” McQueen said. “We play a lot.”
While Carter faded away, Miller and McQueen fought it out until the final hole. McQueen came away with the one-stroke win, shooting a two day score of 21-over-par 165, besting the 166 posted by Miller.
The win was the second in three years for McQueen.
“It makes me feel good. I can go home and brag,” McQueen said.
Laura Bird, who was last year’s ladies champion, played in the regular mens division this year.