Local golf: Lyerly wins third straight
SALISBURY — Nick Lyerly lost the 2017 Horace Billings Rowan Amateur when Keith Dorsett chipped in a birdie on the 19th hole of their championship match.
Since then, Lyerly’s been determined not to give opponents opportunities to beat him — and no one has.
Lyerly made it three straight victories in the event on Sunday at Corbin Hills when he topped perennial runner-up Kevin Lentz 2 and 1. That means Lyerly has won 15 straight Rowan Amateur matches since Dorsett’s chip — and 19 out of 20.
“I’ve just tried to take it personally not to make mistakes,” Lyerly said. “If you don’t make mistakes, if you don’t give any openings, the pressure is always on your opponent. Kevin Lentz is a really good player, very solid. He made very few mistakes Sunday, but I made even fewer.”
Lyerly reached the finals of the Rowan Amateur for the first time in 2014 when he was 15. He won the marquee annual event held at Corbin Hills, his home course, for the first time in 2015 as a 16-year-old.
In 2016, at the age of 17 years and 5 months, he officially became a prodigy. He was the youngest winner ever of the North Carolina Amateur.
Now as a 21-year-old college student at UNC Greensboro, Lyerly is expected to win everything he enters locally.
That brings some pressure, some expectations. It means a target on his back every match, but it never seems to affect Lyerly. It may be 90-plus degrees on the course, but mentally and emotionally, he never breaks a sweat.
“This was a great tournament,” Lyerly said. “The field is always strong here, and this year it was a little stronger than usual.”
The first round saw the top 10 seeds in the 32-man field advance, including qualifying medalist Michael Swaringen, who shot 67 to grab the No. 2 seed behind Lyerly.
Lyerly took a competitive second-round match 3 and 2 against 16th-seeded Sean Kramer. Six of the top seven seeds moved on to the quarterfinals, including the sixth-seeded Lentz. The only serious upset of Round 2, at least based on qualifying scores, was 19th-seeded Shane Benfield edging third-seeded Derek Lipe. But it wasn’t really a shock. Benfield has been a factor in this frequently. He was runner-up to Ronnie Eidson in 2011.
In the quarterfinals played on Saturday afternoon, Lyerly breezed 7 and 6 against Chace Jensen. Swaringen eliminated East Rowan youngster Colby Patterson. Chris Williams, who won a tournament in Burlington last summer, handled Dorsett with unexpected ease in the 4 vs. 5 matchup and emerged as the challenger to Lyerly in one semifinal. Lentz got past Benfield 1-up to reach the other semifinal.
Williams, who has played in several four-ball events as Swaringen’s partner, would take Lyerly the full 18 holes in Sunday morning’s semis.
“Chris is a tough customer,” Lyerly said. “I never trailed, but I missed some short putts. I was lucky to get through that match. I was just good enough.”
Lyerly and Williams were even going to the 17th, but Williams bogeyed.
“That put me 1-up, and then he hit out of bounds, barely out, on 18,” Lyerly said. “He made a few uncharacteristic mistakes late, but he played a really solid round.”
In the other semifinal, Rockwell’s Lentz won his second straight 1-up thriller to eliminate Swaringen, a Mount Pleasant native who has won several area tournaments, including the Davidson County Barbecue Festival (with Williams) and the Davidson County Amateur.
Lentz took the first hole in Sunday afternoon’s championship match with Lyerly.
Both golfers parred the next four holes.
“I finally squared it with a birdie on No. 6,” Lyerly said. “Then No. 7 — that was probably the key hole in the match.”
No. 7 is a Z-shaped par-5, one of the more difficult holes on the course. According to the handicap chart, it’s the third-hardest, but a lot of people claim it’s the toughest.
Lyerly hit two precise shots, carefully laid up short, and was positioned in front of the green. Lentz hit over the green.
Lentz was able to scramble for a par, but Lyerly made a birdie putt to take his first lead of the match.
“That’s where I got the momentum, and I was able to keep it,” Lyerly said. ” I never let Kevin get it back.”
Lyerly had a two-shot lead going to No. 11.
Lentz birdied the 11th, the longest hole on the course, 548 yards from the championship tees, to get back within one.
But Lyerly regained his two-hole advantage on No. 12 — and maintained it.
No mistakes. No openings.
He closed out the match on the 17th.
Lentz, who lost to Dorsett in the 2016 Rowan Amateur final, fell to Lyerly in the finals for the third straight time, so he’s been second four out of the last five years. He’s also been a Rowan Masters qualifying medalist and a Labor Day Four-Ball finalist, a constant factor in local tournaments.
“Kevin is going to win one of the these things, eventually,” Lyerly said. “He’s due and he’s too good not to.”
Next for Lyerly is the Carolinas Four-Ball Championship.
Ordinarily, Lyerly and his UNCG teammates have started getting ready for the college season in September, but if that season doesn’t happen as planned, Lyerly could play in the Labor Day Four-Ball at the Country Club of Salisbury.
42nd annual Horace Billings Rowan County Amateur
Results of Match play, July 17-19, at Corbin Hills
(1) Nick Lyerly d. (32) Jon Baxter, 7 and 6
(16) Sean Kramer d. (17) Gary Fesperman, 5 and 4
(9) Chace Jensen d. (24) Ryan Burke, 3 and 2
(8) Steve Gegorek d. (25) Ben Rollins, 5 and 4
(4) Chris Williams d. (29) Chuck Stockford, 4 and 2
(23) Brian Sutton d. (20) Andy Lombard, 2 and 1
(21) Ritchie Fesperman d. (12) Will Casmus, 6 and 4
(5) Keith Dorsett d. (28) Todd Denton, 5 and 4
(2) Michael Swaringen d. (31) Alex Safrit, 6 and 5
(18) Dwayne McIntyre d. (15) Seth Waller, 2 and 1
(10) Jason Bernhardt d. (23) Preston Jones Jr., 5 and 4
(7) Colby Patterson d. (26) Mike Helms, 4 and 3
(3) Derek Lipe d. (30) Andrew Morgan, 5 and 4
(19) Shane Benfield d. (14) Roger Lyerly, 19 holes, completed Saturday
(22) Brad Vinson d. (11) Rusty Morrison, 4 and 3, completed Saturday
(6) Kevin Lentz d. (27) Bart Correll, 6 and 5
(1) Nick Lyerly d. (16) Sean Kramer, 3 and 2
(9) Chace Jensen d. (8) Steven Gegorek, 4 and 2
(4) Chris Williams d. (23) Brian Sutton, 5 and 3
(5) Keith Dorsett d. (21) Ritchie Fesperman, 3 and 2
(2) Michael Swaringen d. (18) Dwayne McIntyre, 5 and 3
(7) Colby Patterson. d (10) Jason Bernhardt, 5 and 4
(19) Shane Benfield d. (3) Derek Lipe, 1-up
(6) Kevin Lentz d. (22) Brad Vinson, 6 and 5
(1) Nick Lyerly d. (9) Chace Jensen, 7 and 6
(4) Chris Williams d. (5) Keith Dorsett, 5 and 4
(2) Michael Swaringen d. (7) Colby Patterson, 3 and 2
(6) Kevin Lentz d. (19) Shane Benfield, 1-up
(1) Nick Lyerly d. (4) Chris Williams, 2-up
(2) Michael Swaringen d. (6) Kevin Lentz, 1-up
(1) Nick Lyerly d. (6) Kevin Lentz, 2 and 1
1979 — Mallory McDaniel
1980 — Gerald Staton
1981 — Junior Rabon
1982 — David Bogedain
1983 — Gary Miller
1984 — John Henderlite
1985 — John Henderlite
1986 — Gary Keating
1987 — Gary Miller
1988 — Gary Miller
1989 — Junior Rabon
1990 — Randy Bingham
1991 — Richard Cobb
1992 — Gary Miller
1993 — Randy Bingham
1994 — Todd Johnson
1995 — Gary Miller
1996 — Gary Miller
1997 — Ryan Honeycutt
1998 — Thad Sprinkle
1999 — Dusty Holder
2000 — Tommy Trexler
2001 — Ryan Honeycutt
2002 — Adam Jordan
2003 — Mallory McDaniel
2004 — Randy Bingham
2005 — Jon Allen
2006 — Randy Bingham
2007 — Keith Dorsett
2008 — Ronnie Eidson
2009 — Ryan Honeycutt
2010 — Ronnie Eidson
2011 — Ronnie Eidson
2012 — Keith Dorsett
2013 — Andrew Morgan
2014 — Eric Mulkey
2015 — Nick Lyerly
2016 — Keith Dorsett
2017 — Keith Dorsett
2018 — Nick Lyerly
2019 — Nick Lyerly
2020 — Nick Lyerly
2011 — Shane Benfield
2012 — Ronnie Eidson
2013 — Ronnie Eidson
2014 — Nick Lyerly
2015 — Eric Mulkey
2016 — Kevin Lentz
2017 — Nick Lyerly
2018 — Kevin Lentz
2019 — Kevin Lentz
2020 — Kevin Lentz
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