Area golf: Honeycutt wins Rowan Amateur
By David Shaw
The person least surprised with Ryan Honeycutt on Sunday was probably Ryan Honeycutt.Never mind that the 29-year-old account manager qualified as the 13th seed for the annual Horace Billings Rowan Amateur golf tournament at Corbin Hills. Honeycutt plowed through the field of 32 household names and captured the title by edging longtime friend Eric Mulkey by a 4-and-2 count in the final match.
“All these guys out here are good players,” Honeycutt said moments after winning his third Rowan championship. “On any given day, any of them can win. It just worked out good for me today.”
Honeycutt, who eliminated Steve Gegorek by a 5-and-4 margin in Sunday morning’s semifinals, stumbled out of the starting gate against Mulkey.
Honeycutt bogeyed the first hole, then watched Mulkey place his approach at the par-3 second hole on the green just 20 feet from the pin.
“I’m thinking maybe I’m going two holes up on him,” said Mulkey, a 28-year-old pursuing a degree in elementary education. “And then boom ó he drops one in on me.”
Honeycutt squared the match with a slam dunk, reaching for his 7-iron and sinking a rare, nothing-but-net hole-in-one on the 172-yard spread.
“It went in on the fly,” he said. “I put it right in the hole. First I was looking for the ball because I heard it hit the flag. I thought it flew off somewhere. But the crowd down there, their reaction let me know it was in.”
Honeycutt didn’t record a par until the seventh hole. His first six featured three birdies, two bogeys and the ace ó and left him 2-up.
“Yeah, but it was still anybody’s match,” said Mulkey, the 23rd-seeded qualifier and a 2-and-1 winner over Stephen Bullock in the semis. “I just had to gather myself. I knew anything could happen. The hole-in-one didn’t rattle me, but seeing it did play a factor.”
Mulkey found himself 3-down after he bogeyed the 408-yard eighth hole. He got it back on No. 13, where Honeycutt bogeyed a short par-3.
If there was a watershed moment, it came on the demanding, dogleg-left 14th hole. Both golfers landed tee shots just left of the green and faced 5-yard uphill chips to the cup.
Mulkey, going first, slid the ball just wide and some 8 feet beyond its target. Honeycutt could have played the conservative card but instead went for the kill and buried a spectacular shot that deflected off the flagstick for a birdie.
“I was just trying to get it close, but it went in,” Honeycutt said in his biscuits-and-gravy drawl. “I was happy with it.”
Mulkey, who converted a near-identical shot in his semifinal win, had the opposite reaction.
“It’s hard to beat a man who does all that stuff,” he announced to no one in particular, later adding, “That kind of put the dagger in the heart.”
The five-round tournament ended at the 16th hole. Mulkey was dormie ó 3-down with three holes to play ó and conceded when he misfired on a 25-foot putt.
“It’s just my opinion, but me and Ryan are as good as anybody in this field,” Mulkey said afterward. “I’m impressed with him, but you can’t call this unexpected.”
Honeycutt certainly didn’t.
“It was pretty relaxing,” he said. “I had a good time with a good friend ó and had fun beating him.”
NOTES: Honeycutt and Mulkey were teammates at Salisbury High School ó where they won two state championships in the late 1990s ó and again at Catawba Valley Community College. … Mulkey, who beat favored Keith Dorsett in Saturday’s quarterfinals, won last year’s Labor Day Classic at Salisbury Country Club and is a three-time Halloween tournament champ at Crescent Golf Club. … Honeycutt’s hole-in-one was his third overall and second on the No. 2 hole at Corbin Hills. … On Saturday, Honeycutt won 3 and 2 against Derek Lipe in the round of 16 before prevailing 5 and 4 against Dwayne McIntyre in the quarterfinals.