Horace Billings Rowan Amateur Golf: Lyerly leads final four
Horace Billings Rowan Amateur moves to final day
By Dennis Davidson
SALISBURY — Defending champion Nick Lyerly won two matches on Saturday and headlines the final four players in the 41st Horace Billings Rowan Amateur golf championship at Corbin Hills.
Joining Lyerly in this morning’s semifinals are three other tournament-tested veterans — Shane Benfield, Kevin Lentz and Steve Gegorek.
Benfield gets the task of trying to dethrone Lyerly, while Lentz takes on Gegorek. Both matches begin at 8:06 a.m. The two winners will meet this afternoon for the championship, 30 minutes after completion of the morning matches.
Lyerly, a rising junior member of the UNC Greensboro golf team who qualified for the U.S. Amateur on Wednesday in Chapel Hill, defeated Lentz in last year’s Rowan Amateur final. He was also in the last match in 2017, losing to champion Keith Dorsett. He also won this event in 2015 as a teenager, still at East Rowan High School.
“The local stuff is more for fun, but I still want to play good,” Lyerly said, after his Saturday morning win (5 and 3) over Devin Gibson. “It means something and I want to win. You know, the U.S. Amateur, that’s all business … trying to make the biggest amateur tournament in the world.
“But I just love playing and this is fun,” continued Lyerly. “I do take pride in going out there and playing my best and whatever happens, happens.”
Top-seed Lyerly had a tough match with William Little, the No. 9 seed, in the afternoon quarterfinals. Lyerly trailed at one point, but won, 1-up. In addition to beating Gibson, Lyerly defeated Seth Waller, 4 and 3, during Friday’s first round.
Lentz, also a runner-up to Dorsett in 2016, in addition to last year’s second-place finish, won his quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon by a whopping 7 and 6 score over Jason Bernhardt.
The margin of victory was a surprise, considering Bernhardt upset Dorsett on Saturday morning, 5 and 3. Dorsett, a four-time champion, was this event’s No. 2 seed and won his opening match on Friday, 8 and 6, over Jon Baxter.
But Bernhardt said he played “pretty solid” against Dorsett.
“I’ve known Keith a long time, but never played against him before,” Bernhardt said, after the match, still letting his victory sink in. “It was a good match. Keith didn’t get a whole lot of breaks and I didn’t make any mistakes. And, I made a lot of my short putts, not giving him anything by missing those 4- or 5-footers. I made them.”
Bernhardt sank a 30-foot putt on the par-4 12th hole and when Dorsett missed a 15-footer, the underdog was five up with six holes to play. “That was a big turning point,” said Bernhardt. “Obviously, I was trying to two-putt and it went in.”
The two halved No. 13 and Dorsett birded No. 14. But Bernhardt closed out the match on the par-4 15th.
“Near the end of the match, I did feel some pressure, of course,” added Bernhardt. “Less than I would have had it been a little tighter, but you’ve got to keep playing. I just wanted to keep doing my thing. I got lucky and he hit a bad drive on No. 15 and I hit the green. I had a really good look for birdie and he came over and shook my hand. He was a really good sport about it. I consider Keith a friend and it was good match.”
Apparently, that match took a toll on Bernhardt, as Lentz chipped in for a birdie on No. 4 and made a long putt on the par-3 fifth. Lentz won, going away, and kept his chances alive for another shot at that elusive championship.
Lentz will take on another surprise semifinalist in Gegorek. The No. 22 seed when play began, Gegorek defeated Ethan Scarborough on Friday, 2 and 1, then topped Ben Rollins, 4 and 3, on Saturday morning.
In his quarterfinal match, Gegorek went 21 holes before defeating No. 3 seed Lipe, 1-up.
Benfield, another staple in local tournament golf and the No. 12 seed, is making another deep run. He, too, is looking for his first Rowan Amateur title.
Benfield won on Friday over Catawba’s Bryson Sprinkle (5 and 4), turned back Ryan Honeycutt on Saturday morning (1-up) and defeated Michael Swaringen, 1-up, in the quarterfinals. Now, he gets to take on Lyerly.
NOTES: Play was halted for 30 minutes during Saturday afternoon’s matches, due to a brief storm. … Swaringen had to play against a familiar face on Saturday morning. He defeated his brother, Mitchell, 3 and 2.
41st Horace Billings Rowan Amateur golf results
Corbin Hills Golf Club
Nick Lyerly d. Seth Waller, 4 and 3
Devin Gibson d. Andrew Burke, 4 and 2
William Little d. Lee Fesperman, 2 and 1
Andrew Morgan d. Trey Swaringen, 3 and 1
Michael Swaringen d. Chace Jensen, 4 and 3
Mitchell Swaringen d. Matt Brittain, 3 and 2
Shane Benfield d. Bryson Sprinkle, 5 and 4
Ryan Honeycutt d. Todd Deaton, 5 and 4
Keith Dorsett d. Jon Baxter, 8 and 6
Jason Bernhardt d. Adam Jordan, 2-up
Kevin Lentz d. Michael Dorsett, 4 and 3
Brett Mulkey d. Ross Brown, 1-up (19 holes)
Derek Lipe d. Jonathan Waller, 7 and 6
Ryan Burke d. Austin Miller, 4 and 3
Steven Gegorek d. Ethan Scarborough, 2 and 1
Ben Rollins d. Preston Jones Jr., 1-up (19 holes)
Nick Lyerly d. Devin Gibson, 5 and 3
William Little d. Andrew Morgan, 6 and 5
Michael Swaringen d. Mitchell Swaringen, 3 and 2
Shane Benfield d. Ryan Honeycutt, 1-up
Jason Bernhardt d. Keith Dorsett, 5 and 3
Kevin Lentz d. Brett Mulkey, 2 and 1
Derek Lipe d. Ryan Burke, 4 and 3
Steve Gegorek d. Ben Rollins, 4 and 3
SATURDAY AFTERNOON QUARTERFINALS
Nick Lyerly d. William Little, 1-up
Shane Benfield d. Michael Swaringen, 1-up
Kevin Lentz d. Jason Bernhardt, 7 and 6
Steve Gegorek d. Derek Lipe, 1-up (21 holes)
SUNDAY MORNING SEMIFINALS
Lyerly vs. Benfield, 8:06 a.m.
Lentz vs. Gegorek, 8:06 a.m.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON CHAMPIONSHIP
Lyerly-Benfield winner vs. Lentz-Gegorek winner, 30 minutes after completion of semifinals