Miller and Morgan win Labor Day with late, clutch shots

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015

By Dennis Davidson

After a long, tiring day of grueling competition, teammates Andrew Morgan and Phil Miller each had one tremendous golf shot left in them.

Morgan and Miller won the annual Crowder/Dorsett Labor Day 4-Ball championship on Monday afternoon at the Country Club of Salisbury, defeating good friends Derrick Lipe and Drue Davis, 2-up.

But it wasn’t easy.

Lipe birdied the par-5 15th hole and Davis’ par on No. 16 evened the match after Miller and Morgan had led much the final round. Miller even apologized leaving No. 16.

“I looked at Andrew and said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we swore that we wouldn’t say that, but I was sorry because I’ve got a pitching wedge in my hand and I didn’t even hit the green (on No. 16),” said Miller.

Lipe and Davis seemed to have the momentum but it changed quickly.

No one’s tee shot on the par-3, 213-yard 17th hole was on the green and Morgan was last to hit. Using a 4-iron, Morgan stuck his ball to within four feet. Lipe and Davis scrambled, but when they both bogeyed, the hole belonged to Morgan and Miller, now leading by one hole with one to play.

“On 17, Andrew hit the same exact shot that he hit in the morning round, but instead of being long, now late in the day, the green was more receptive and the ball stuck,” recounted Miller.

On No. 18, all four players, battling fatigue, mashed their tee shots right down the middle of the fairway. As the gallery watched from behind the green, Morgan’s approach settled safely onto the green but a good 20 feet away from the pin. Miller, using a pitching wedge from 133 yards, nailed his second shot to within three feet, pretty much sealing their first Labor Day title as a team.

It’s the second Labor Day win for Miller, 30, who won in 2009, playing with Jim Christy. Miller said afterwards that he won this time for his grandfather, Hayden Miller, who is battling terminal cancer. “My grandmother brought him out to the first hole and after he watched us tee off, he went back home,” said Miller.

It was the first Labor Day win for Morgan, also 30, and a former three-sport star at South Rowan High School and standout baseball pitcher at UNC-Wilmington.

“It was fun playing Derrick and Drue, but they’re our good, good friends, so winning is a little bittersweet,” said Morgan. “And we had to play Phil’s brother (David) in the first round, so the path wasn’t what we would have chosen, because you hate to beat those guys.”

Miller echoed Morgan’s words. “You want to win the entire time, but you want the golf to speak for itself,” said Miller. “There was absolutely no smack-talking between any of our groups. Putts were given when they were supposed to be given and there were no games being played … and you don’t always have it that way in match play. We played true golf today and just happened to come out on top.”

Davis and Lipe were obviously disappointed after the match, especially after battling back to square things after 16 holes.

“We had a little momentum after winning 15 and 16, but just kind of gave it back with our tee shots on 17,” said Davis. “We felt really good going to the 17th tee. We just needed either one of us to hit the green and keep the pressure on them, but neither of us did that. We just didn’t hit the shots we needed to hit.”

Like Miller and Morgan, Davis is 30 years old. Lipe, the clubhouse manager at Rolling Hills Golf Club, is 26. Davis and Lipe and have played together in the Labor Day tournament five years running, but this was their first trip into the championship flight. It may not be their last.

“Yes, we started off good but some poor shots in the middle of the round cost us,” said Lipe. “And I would like to have No. 17 back and I missed that short putt on No. 14 that could have won a hole.”

Miller and Morgan, up by two after nine holes, lost No. 10 on a par by Lipe, but went back up by two when Miller birdied No. 12. He credited his playing partner with club selection.

“Yes, Andrew clubbed me there, a three-quarter pitching wedge,” said Miller, who hit a beauty of a shot from off the fairway 126 yards, to within four feet of the pin.

Both teams struggled on No. 13 and No. 14 and they headed to No. 15 with Miller and Morgan two up.

Then came the dramatic final four holes among good friends.

“I told Derrick at the beginning that I was glad that it was us and them because win or lose, I’d be happy,” said Morgan.

To get to the afternoon finals, Miller and Morgan won a Monday morning semifinal, 2-up, over solid competitors Chris Williams and Michael Swaringen. Another quality team, Dwayne McIntyre and Brad Vinson, fell to Lipe and Davis in the other semifinal, 3-and-1.

A bit of history was made in the men’s senior flight. John Henderlite and John Kyger won the title, 4-and-3, over Randy Davis and Jim Wyatt. Officials announced that it was the first time that past champions (Henderlite and Kyger) of the men’s open flight have also won the senior flight.

Henderlite won the men’s title three times, twice with Jake Alexander, while Kyger won in 2008 with his son, Johnny. They said that they had no regrets playing in the senior division instead of challenging the younger guys in the championship flight.

“We’re where we need to be,” said Kyger. “We may could qualify for the championship flight, but it would be near impossible to win it. We just don’t hit it as far anymore.”

Henderlite said that although he plays to win, “it’s the friendships that I’ve made, and continue to make, in this tournament, that keeps me coming back.”

The super senior (65+) division was won by the team of Davie Roueche and Steve Vail, who defeated Bob Mangum and Russ Priddy, 1-up.

The women’s division was won by Allison Adams and Grace Yatawara for the fifth straight year (see accompanying article).

See Scoreboard on page 2B for all of Monday’s results.