Rowan Masters: Youth comes up big on Day 1
CHINA GROVE — The opening round of the 13th annual Rowan Masters Golf Tournament Friday afternoon had a definite youthful flavor but don’t count out the old guard just yet.
The field of 32 in the three-day, match-play tournament at Warrior Golf Club was cut in half with nine of the surviving 16 players being college or high school players. Leading the way were defending champion Matt Hardman, who just finished his career at Catawba College, along with rising prep sophomore Michael Childress of Cannon School, who was co-medalist in qualifying for the event with a score of 69.
A talented crew of Catawba players joined Hardman as first day winners including No. 20 Tyler Mulkey, No. 5 Jeb Bennett (son of former Indian coach David Bennett), and No. 7 Wes Cline. Also prevailing were Elon University golfer Troy Beaver of Salisbury, N.C. State signee Davis Richards from South Rowan, former Carson star Andrew Purcell of USC-Upstate and Salisbury High junior Christopher Queen.
The impressive performances by the younger players got the attention of seven-time Rowan Masters champion Keith Dorsett, who shot a 69 in qualifying as well and won his opening match 4-and-3 over David Miller.
Admitting that he was closing in on age 40, Dorsett said he wanted to make a statement for the veteran players.
“I look at the board and so many of the winners are in their mid to late teens or early 20s,” he said. “You have to do something to get your game together and play with these kids.”
Dorsett has well over a decade of success in many local golf events including the Rowan Masters, the Horace Billings Rowan Amateur and the Labor Day Four Ball tourney. He knows what it takes to succeed.
“It is not really about playing golf, it is more of an endurance test to try and finish a match,” he said. “You have got to focus on yourself and play the golf course.”
The endurance test will require the eventual winner to play as many as 72 holes over the next two days of match play with the finals set for Sunday afternoon beginning about 12:30 p.m. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will be decided Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. then semifinals start at 8 a.m. Sunday.
From a seeding standpoint, the favorites dominated for the most part on Friday, most by a large margin. One of the more dramatic finishes was a rally by Richards, seeded 14th, to come from two down with three to play to 19th-seeded Brian Hewat on the final hole of the day. Richards drilled a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win 1-up and advance to face Dorsett in the next round.
The biggest upset was No. 23 Andrew Morgan, former County Amateur champ, over No. 10 Dennis Long 2-and-1. Queen, the 21st seed, edged Brad Vinson, seeded 12th, also with a 2-and-1 margin.
More typical results were the 7-and-6 win by Hardman over Chace Jensen with five birdies, and a dominating 8-and-6 win by 15-year-old Childress who won the first five holes over Brandon Cranfield and never looked back.
“I played really well today and hit some good shots,’ Childress said. “I was hitting fairways and giving myself a chance on every hole.”
The winning veterans on Day 1 included last year’s runner-up Justin Lefler, who faced his friend Seth Waller and prevailed by a 7 and 6 score.
“Seth is a good friend of mine and I did not look forward to playing him since we qualified together, and I convinced him to play this year,” Lefler said. “But I am happy with the way I started, and I got sharper as the round went along.”
Lefler will now play Chris Owen, a 7-and-5 winner over Sean Cramer. Other first day winners advancing were No. 8 seed Josh Brincefield, No. 17 seed Derek Lipe, and No. 18 seed Bubba Hendren.
Warrior Golf Club
No. 1 Matt Hardman d. No. 32 Chace Jenson 7&6
No. 17 Derek Lipe d. No. 16 Michael Kee 3&2
No. 8 Josh Brincefield d. No. 25 Chuck Valley 5&4
No. 9 Andrew Purcell d. No. 24 Dwayne McIntyre 3&2
No. 4 Troy Beaver d. No. 29 Jon Waller 5&4
No. 20 Tyler Mulkey d. No. 13 Todd Johnson 6&4
No. 5 Jeb Bennett d. No. 28 Nate Jessup 7&6
No. 21 Christopher Queen d. No. 12 Brad Vinson 2&1
No. 2 Michael Childress d. No. 31 Brandon Cranfield 8&6
No. 18 Bubba Hendren d. No. 15 Kevin Lentz 2&1
No. 7 Wes Cline d. No. 26 Jeff McCarter 2&1
No. 23 Andrew Morgan d. No. 10 Dennis Long 2&1
No. 3 Keith Dorsett d. No. 30 David Miller 4&3
No. 14 Davis Richards d. No. 19 Brian Hewat 1 up
No. 6 Justin Lefler d. No. 27 Seth Waller 7&6
No. 11 Chris Owen d. No. 22 Sean Kramer 7&5
No. 1 Matt Hardman vs. No. 17 Derek Lipe
No. 8 Josh Brincefield vs. No. 9 Andrew Purcell
No. 4 Troy Beaver vs. No. 20 Tyler Mulkey
No. 5 Jeb Bennett vs. No. 21 Christopher Queen
No. 2 Michael Childress vs. No. 18 Bubba Hendren
No. 7 Wes Cline vs. No. 23 Andrew Morgan
No. 3 Keith Dorsett vs. No. 14 Davis Richards
No. 6 Justin Lefler vs. No. 11 Chris Owen