Almost Deja Vu
The repeat win by Scott Medlin in the Carolinas Open and the strong showing made by local golfers in qualifying for the North Carolina Amateur Championship once again proves the quality of play in the Sandhills.
It must have felt a lot like dj vu for Scott Medlin and Kelly Mitchum as they battled to the finish for the Carolinas Open title at the Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach last week. Medlin's one-stroke victory over a hard-charging Mitchum was a virtual replay of a year ago.
Meanwhile, six local players earned berths in the state's most prestigious amateur event with their play in the qualifier held at Legacy Golf Links.
Medlin, an assistant professional at Bayonet at Puppy Creek in Hoke County, had worked with Mitchum as an instructor in Pinehurst Resort's Golf academy until a few weeks ago. He's a resident of Hamlet and played on the PGA Tour in 1996.
Opening with rounds of 67-65, Medlin held a two-stroke lead over Bill McDonald of Columbia, S.C., entering the final round. Mitchum had opened with a 71 and trailed the leader by five shots despite a second-round 66.
Medlin wasn't lulled into a false sense of security, though. He is all too aware of the talent and tenacity of his former co-worker and wasn't surprised when he saw Mitchum moving up the leaderboard.
"I knew Kelly was going crazy," Medlin told reporter Alan Blondin of The Myrtle Beach Sun News. "I saw him birdie the 12th hole and then I saw him with a 15-footer on the 15th that he barely missed, so I just knew he was going to make another one. I was just glad to be one ahead at that point."
While Mitchum was scorching the course with five birdies for a low round of the day at 66, Medlin was finding the birdies scarce. He didn't make a bogey in the final two rounds and was even par through the first 13 holes before making his lone birdie of the day on the 14th. That proved to be just enough to get the job done.
"I knew I had to go really low and I would have thought five-under might not be enough, but I thought it was going to be close either way," Mitchum told reporters.
The Surf Club plays to 6,720 yards for the professionals and Medlin likes the layout. He's won the past two Carolinas Opens there and three of the last four. Mitchum won in 2006.
"I wish all of then were at this golf course," Medlin told Blondin. "I'd have a chance. This is a great course for me and Kelly because we don't bomb it 300 yards like a lot of people. We keep it in play and are pretty good with irons. If it's 7,000 yards we have a little tougher time. But I love this course. You have to fade it some, you have to draw it some and the greens are perfect."
Despite his solid play, Medlin had to make a pressure putt on the final hole for the win. He drained the eight-footer for par.
"That was nerve-wracking," Medlin said. "I feel real fortunate to hang on because I was leaking oil and Kelly was playing well. I thought, 'If I get in a playoff, I don't like my chances,' because nothing was happening."
Medlin picked up $6,000 for the win and is planning on using some of the money for a family vacation at the beach when he competes in the North Carolina Open at St. James Plantation in June.
Gus Ulrich, an assistant professional at the Country Club of Whispering Pines tied for fifth at 207. Nate Olivo of Pinehurst was at 214, Chad Gilligan of Aberdeen at 215, Jamie Johnson of Southern Pines at 218 and Paul Oglesby of Pinehurst at 219.
Twenty of the 73 players seeking to qualify at Legacy Golf Links for the North Carolina Amateur advanced, led by Michael Marshburn, a rising high school senior from Cary who shot a 5-under-par 67 on the Jack Nicklaus II design.
The cut line fell at 1-over-par 73 in the event, which was conducted by the Carolinas Golf Association.
Local players who advanced to the Amateur to be held at Raleigh Country Club June 12-15 were Daniel Neveu of Pinehurst with 70, William Lincicome of Pinehurst at 71, Sherrill Britt of West End at 71, Robert Riesen and Glen Subin of Pinehurst at 72, and Frank McBrayer of West End at 73. Scott Azzarelli of Fayetteville, who won the Cumberland County Math Play Championship two weeks ago, also qualified with a 73.
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