Local golf: Lyerly makes it four in a row

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2021

By Mike London

SALISBURY — The field was strong and the days were long, but Nick Lyerly made it look even easier than usual.

It’s gotten to the point where it’s a bigger story when Lyerly doesn’t win than when he does.

Lyerly, a phenom in his high school days at East Rowan, was crowned as the 43rd annual Horace Billings Rowan Amateur champion at Corbin Hills on Sunday. Lyerly won for the fourth year in a row and for the fifth time in his career.

It takes five victories to weave through a 32-man bracket. So, Lyerly has a 20-match winning streak in the event, which is one of the biggest and most prestigious local tournaments.

None of Lyerly’s matches this time went past the 15th hole. Lyerly is as good at Corbin Hills as he is anywhere. He’s proud to claim it as his home course.

“It’s good to win here, always good to win anywhere,” Lyerly said. “Winning is a good feeling. No, it doesn’t get old.”

The recent UNC Greensboro graduate has competed in seven of the past eight Rowan Amateur finals, a stretch that began when he was a 15-year-old back in 2014.

Lyerly’s margin of victory in Sunday afternoon’s championship match was 6 and 5. He won overwhelmingly against Keith Dorsett, consistently one of the county’s best over the past two decades. Dorsett is a four-time Rowan Amateur champ, and he was the last golfer to beat Lyerly in the Rowan Amateur — in the 2017 final.

But Lyerly gave Dorsett no chance in their latest matchup. He would’ve beaten just about any mortal.

When the match was over after the 13th hole, Lyerly already was 7-under. There were no cracks in Lyerly’s game, no openings for Dorsett.

“I birdied the first hole and I had four straight birdies, 9 through 12, to kind of close it out,” Lyerly said. “I played very well.”

In the semifinals, the seventh-seeded Dorsett had gotten past third-seeded William Little.

The top-seeded Lyerly’s semifinal match was against another old friend and rival, fourth-seeded Eric Mulkey. That one Lyerly closed out on the 15th for a 4 and 3 victory.

Mulkey won the tournament in 2014 when he edged Lyerly in the final and he also was runner-up to Lyerly in 2015.

“Eric is a great golfer, always capable of shooting under par,” Lyerly said. “He didn’t have his best day Sunday. I didn’t play that great, but I made a few less mistakes and a few more birdies than he did.”

Lyerly, who plans to extend his college golfing career at UNC Greensboro as a graduate student, is expected to return for another Rowan Amateur next summer. He’ll be shooting for his sixth title, which would tie Gary Miller’s record. Miller won six championships during a stretch from 1983-1996.

Next for Lyerly is the 119th Western Amateur, which will be held 15 miles from Chicago, on July 26-31. The Western Amateur is considered the toughest test in amateur golf and features an invited field of 156 of the world’s best. The tournament starts with 72 holes of stroke play, with the third and fourth rounds on the same day. The low 16 scores advance to match play.

Corbin Hills also introduced the Rowan Senior Amateur over the weekend.

Fourth-seeded Steve Gegorek took the inaugural championship in a 16-team man bracket, beating second-seeded Alan Barefoot in the final.

Gegorek survived a 1-up match with Bart Carroll to get past the first round.

Gegorek beat top-seeded Wally Eidson in the semis, while Barefoot eliminated third-seeded Chuck Valley.