Local Golf: Benfield among stars at Rowan Amateur
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Attention golf fans. Shane Benfield is back.
Benfield, a former East Rowan Mustang golfer, has spent the past 10 years in Florida, but he emerged Saturday as a top contender in the 33rd Horace Billings Rowan Amateur at Corbin Hills.
Benfield is in the Final Four after beating Brian Jones 1-up.
“I grew up playing this course,” Benfield noted. “I was a junior golfer out here and I like it.”
Three of the four matches on Saturday went down to the wire:
• Benfield won on the 18th when Jones hit his tee shot out of bounds and eventually conceded.
• Keith Dorsett and his good pal Eric Mulkey were in quite a battle but Dorsett sank a pressure-packed 25-footer on the 18th hole to win 1-up.
• Defending champion Ronnie Eidson was forced into sudden death by Chuck Stockford before winning it with a birdie on the first extra hole.
The only quick finish was turned in by Mallory McDaniel, who defeated Kevin Lentz 6 & 5.
It should make for entertaining semifinal matches today, which begin at 8:06 a.m. Eidson and Dorsett will play, while Benfield hooks up with McDaniel. The winners will play for all the marbles.
While Dorsett, Eidson and McDaniel are familiar names around the Rowan County circuit, Corbin Hills pro Tim Gardner called Benfield the darkhorse.
He made a believer out of Jones. After disposing of medalist Andrew Morgan 5 & 4 in the morning, Benfield made many big shots against Jones.
“He was solid all day long,” Jones praised. “Even when he missed greens, he got up and down. He made a lot of pars that easily have gone the other way. That’s an important thing to do, especially in this format.”
Jones, who ousted Chris Sifford 4 & 3 in the morning, played great golf as well going to No. 18. But his tee shot went right and bounced out of bounds.
“I had hit my driver right all day long,” Jones said. “I wanted to get it on out there and finish it. I should’ve tried to play it safe but that’s not my style.”
When Jones’ next two shots had him still in the fairway he congratulated Benfield.
“It was back and forth,” Jones said. “He’d go up, I’d go up. We’d go even two or three holes. It was a lot of fun. I hated it ended that way, though.”
Of his sudden-death win, Eidson said, “I got lucky. I missed some short ones coming in. I was trying to give it away, it looked like. Chuck played great. He was real steady.”
Eidson beat Michael Dorsett 6 & 5 in the morning but wasn’t feeling his best after he beat Stockford.
“I felt like crap this afternoon, I tell you that,” Eidson sighed. “I want to go home, take a shower and go to bed.”
Dorsett will be Eidson’s first opponent this morning. He has already won the first leg of Rowan’s County’s triple crown, the Rowan Masters.
After making several birdies and an eagle to beat Brett Adams 5 & 4 in the morning, he found Mulkey waiting.
“I knew that was going to be a tough one,” Dorsett said.
Each made just one bogey, and when Mulkey chipped from just off the green at 18, it barely missed the cup.
“It had a very good chance to go in,” Mulkey said.
Dorsett agreed, but when it didn’t, he took a bead on his 25-footer.
“You’ve got 15 and 20-footers all day,” Dorsett said. “You’re only going to make so many of them.”
He made the one that counted.
“We never got away from each other,” Mulkey said. “It stayed tight the whole time. I just didn’t have enough at the end. He played terrific. He’s tough to beat.”
So while Dorsett and Eidson battle each other for what seems like the hundredth time, the veteran McDaniel finds Benfield as an opponent.
“I’ll do my best,” Benfield said. “It’s another day on the golf course. Any day out here beats a day of work.”
And with that, Benfield stayed on the 18th fairway where some friends met him to celebrate.
“It’s good to be back home,” Benfield smiled.
And good to still be in the title hunt on the course he grew up playing.