CHINA GROVE — Phil Miller had reached the finals of the Rowan Masters three times and Keith Dorsett had won it the last three years.
Something gave Sunday at Warrior Golf Club as Miller finally popped the seal and was bridesmaid no more. Miller bested Dorsett with a late surge that equaled a 3&1 win.
“He was tough,” said Dorsett of his opponent. “He doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Sunday was Miller pitted against Dorsett in a rematch from last year’s championship. Miller beat Ryan Honeycutt 6&4 in the morning semifinal.
Miller was bested by Ronnie Eidson on his first trip to the finals and topped by Dorsett last year.
“Ryan and Keith are both good friends,” Miller said. “The course played great and it was a very fun day.”
Miller, dubbed ‘the Pink Panther’ by friends for donning pink during the tournament, shot 65 over 17 holes a day after beating Kevin Lentz in a one-hole playoff.
Dorsett, who was going for his eighth Masters win in 11 years, birdied holes 4 and 5 to go up early, but couldn’t sustain the lead.
“Phil’s a solid player,” Dorsett said. “If he does hit an errant shot, he can get up and down and scramble good. I made some mental mistakes and he made enough birdies to stay ahead of me.”
The two were even after 12 holes heading into a par-5, 532-yard hole 13. Miller had a strong drive off the tee. After landing on the green in two shots, Miller putted 100 feet across the green and got it a couple feet away, close enough for a gimmie.
“That was pretty much the turning point of the match,” Dorsett said. “I asked him if he could do it again, he said no.”
A modest Miller admitted other elements were at play in the round’s defining shot.
“It was luck,” he admitted with a smile. “It twisted around four different times.”
Dorsett had a 7-foot putt to birdie but had it go in-and-out as Miller went 1 up.
On 14, Dorsett got a rough lie on his tee shot and ended up bogeying. Miller did enough to get par and take a two-hole lead with four to play.
“I played smart,” Miller said. “I played it to the front and middle of the green. Then just putted down for par.”
“I hit a bad tee shot and didn’t save par,” Dorsett said. “All he had to do was two-putt and make par. It was gonna be hard after that.”
The pair got par on 15 and bogeyed 16 as Dorsett faced elimination on 17.
“I just worked the ball up the fairway and leave myself a wedge,” Miller said.
Dorsett had to reach the green in two shots on the par 5 to stay in contention but couldn’t recover from a rough tee shot that put him inbetween several trees outside the fairway.
“With that lie I had it was one shot in a million,” Dorsett said. “I had to try it because, at worst, he’s going to make 5. So I had to make 4.”
Miller birdied the first and third holes to start out 1 up. Dorsett went 1 up after consecutive birdies on 4 and 5. The defending champ sustained a 1-hole lead through hole 8. Miller birdied 9 to make them even at the turn. Miller and Dorsett traded birdies on 10 and 11, both par 4’s.
Elon’s Troy Beaver won third place after falling to Dorsett in the semis. Dorsett birdied the final three holes for a 3&1 win.
“This morning was a grind the whole way through,” Dorsett said. “I knew I’d have to play well against Troy.”
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