Rowan Amateur: Eidson beats Benfield to repeat
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Ronnie Eidson said he didn’t feel well on Friday. He said he didn’t feel well on Saturday.
But on Sunday, he felt like a champion.
The 57-year-old defeated two of the county’s young guns yesterday at Corbin Hills to win the 33rd annual Horace Billings Rowan Amateur title, defending his crown.
In the morning semifinal match, he edged Keith Dorsett 3 & 2 and then beat upstart Shane Benfield by the same score in the afternoon title match. It left him a bit surprised, considering health concerns with his heart and diabetes.
“In all honesty,” Eidson drawled, “I didn’t think I had a chance. I didn’t think I’d be able to finish. But the weather worked out great for me. I hurt very little all day. I was very comfortable.”
Benfield, who defeated Mallory McDaniel 3 & 2 in his semifinal, was certainly impressed. It was the first time the two had played against each other in a tournament format.
“Ronnie’s a great guy,” Benfield said. “He played solid all day.”
Eidson got off to a hot start with birdies on holes 2, 4 and 6, taking a quick lead.
“Actually, I think I putted the ball a little bit better,” he said. “You’re going to leave some shots short but I kept it pretty much on line. I hit my driver real well and kept it in play. I like this course because it’s got so much (out of bounds). You’ve got to hit the driver straight.”
Benfield knew he had his work cut out for him after Eidson’s early success.
“Just hang in there and grind it out,” Benfield said when asked how he felt watching Eidson make birdie after birdie.
Eidson also birdied 11 and 13 and it was over on the 16th with him leading by three with two holes left.
“I’m lucky he didn’t beat me worse than that,” Benfield said. “My hat’s off to him.”
Benfield did play well against McDaniel.
“I felt good,” he said. “I just tried to stick to my game plan and keep the ball in play. Mallory played solid.”
Benfield said he is lucky to play twice a month due to work and his family, so he was elated with his weekend.
“I’m totally blown away by it,” he said of his berth in the title match. “Considering the amount I get to play, I did great. I’m not disappointed one bit.”
Despite his birdie binge in the championship match, Eidson said his best match came in the semifinals, where he met Dorsett, the reigning Rowan Masters champ.
Eidson knew it was going to be a fight when he was five-under at the turn but was only up one shot.
“That was a great match,” Eidson said.
Again, a quick start was the difference.
“I made one bogey on No. 2 but other than that, we were matching birdies and eagles with each other,” Dorsett said. “He made a couple of birdies on me early but after that, we pretty much tied every hole.”
While Eidson seemed a bit surprised by his championship, Dorsett was not.
“I guess he just digs down way deep and finds enough energy to finish out a golf tournament,” Dorsett said. “He’s been doing it for the last three or four years.”
Now, it’s on to the third leg of the Rowan County triple crown, the Labor Day tournament at the Country Club of Salisbury. The defending champ is the team of Curtis Kyles and — you guessed it — Eidson.
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