34th annual Robeson County Golf Championships
at Pinecrest Country Club
Championship division: Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Regular: Saturday and Sunday
Juniors: Friday and Saturday
Ladies: Saturday and Sunday
Seniors (55-65): Saturday and Sunday
Super Seniors (65+): Friday and Saturday
Championship division will be flighted after Saturday’s round. All other divisions will be flighted following the first day of play.
Friday’s tee times will be posted tonight at Robesonian.com and printed in Thursday’s edition.
LUMBERTON — Last year’s county golf championship ultimately came down to two friends and one playoff hole.
And when Ryan Bass sank a putt for par on No. 1 at Pinecrest Country Club to clinch the win against Brad Locklear, the 20-year-old added his name to a lengthy list of champions that includes current PGA Tour golfer William McGirt.
“It felt good,” Bass said. “That was my goal, to win the county tournament and this year I want to prove to people that it wasn’t a one-time thing.”
His title defense starts Friday when the mens championship division tees off at the 34th annual Robeson County Golf Championships, presented by Dial Insurance. The tournament runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Pinecrest Country Club and includes six divisions for men, women and youths.
In addition to the mens championship division, the juniors and the newly-added super seniors play Friday and Saturday, and seniors, ladies and regular mens divisions play Saturday and Sunday. At stake are trophies, bragging rights, and $3,000 worth of prizes.
“I think we have a lot of excitement this year,” said Jeff Wishart, the secretary-treasurer of the Robeson County Golf Association.
More than 100 golfers are expected to tee it up.
Outside of the championship division, the tournament has added the super senior division for players aged 65 and older, which will play Friday and Saturday.
“We had a lot of requests for that,” Wishart said.
The field includes 30 in the mens championship division, which has become increasingly competitive.
Ever since Kyle Covington won his fifth tournament in a row in 2010, a different champion has been crowned each year. Ian Locklear, a Purnell Swett alum who now golfs for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, broke Covington’s streak with a win in 2011. Brad Locklear won it in 2012 before losing to Bass on the playoff hole last year.
“It’s not like anybody’s going to run away from it like Kyle did a few years ago,” Wishart said. “You can get six or seven people off the bat that can get right in there.”
The field includes plenty of former champions, including Scott Benton and Dyrck Fanning, who teamed up to win the Kiwanis All-American Golf Tournament last fall. Benton has won four tournament titles, including three in a row from 1990 to 1992, and Fanning has won four, most recently in 2005.
Ian Locklear and Brad Locklear will be back, as will three-time winner Mark Kinlaw. And Covington, who won seven of eight tournaments from 2003 to 2010, has been seen on the practice range in recent days trying to recapture his glory.
Non-champions including Nick Dial and David Lowry Jr. also stayed within eight strokes of the leaders last year.
“You’ve got more guys that have gotten a chance to win,” Brad Locklear said. “Kyle had been pretty much the dominant one.”
Covington said the competition is nothing new. Even during his run as champion, he admits it took a few lucky rolls here and there.
“I think it’s always been there. It’s just showing itself,” Covington said. “It’s not something where they woke up one day and were good.”
Covington has upped his time on the course over the last few weeks and is expected to make another run for the title, though he downplays some of the hype from his competition.
“I definitely want to win,” he said. “It would be nice to do it again.”
Bass, who works at the pro shop at Pinecrest, said the course is going to play firm. After a round Sunday, Wishart said recent rains have helped soften it a bit.
“Fairways are in great shape and the greens are rolling real good,” Wishart said.
It’s the greens that Bass said will likely make the difference in his title defense.
“I can hit the ball bad but my putting is going to save me,” he said.
Brad Locklear said with such close competition, the best strategy is to not worry about the other golfers.
“I try to focus on my game and what I can do,” he said. “I’m just excited. I’m ready to go ahead and tee it up. I’ve been waiting a long time since I lost last year.”