Heeee's Back: Kelly Mitchum Outduels Olivo in Carolinas Open
Neither a wet course nor a three-hour rain delay was enough to keep Kelly Mitchum from battling his way to a second Carolinas Open Championship.
Welcome back, Kelly.
No, Mitchum hasn't really been away. It's just that his absence from the winners' circle in Carolinas PGA Section majors last year made it seem that way. After all, he had won at least one CPGA major for six consecutive years, beginning in 2002, but had only a victory in the Assistant's Championship to show for his 2008 efforts.
Mitchum, an instructor with the Pinehurst Golf Academy and a Southern Pines native, used a 3-under-par 68 during the final round on the soggy Surf Golf and Beach Club layout in North Myrtle Beach to overtake second-round leader Nate Olivo, another Pinehurst Resort professional, and end his mini-drought.
"I don't want to make excuses," he said, "but there were some things going on last year. Some distractions. And the bogey I made on the last hole that kept me from making the cut in the Club Pro Championship cost me from a confidence standpoint."
Mitchum, who opened with rounds of 66-69, finished at 203 for the 54 holes at the Surf Club, with Olivo and Dale Ketola, of Murrells Inlet, at 204.
Olivo, who has been playing solid golf in recent months, held a one-stroke lead over Mitchum and Ketola after a sensational 66 in the second round. But Mitchum used back-to-back birdies on the final nine to pull out the squeaker.
The final group was scheduled to tee off at 9:09 a.m., but rain delayed that until 12:30. Olivo appeared to take charge when he made four birdies against a lone bogey on the front nine to get to minus 11 for the tournament. Mitchum was three back at the turn, while Ketola was struggling with a pair of bogeys.
Olivo found trouble on the back, though, leaving approach shots short and making bogeys on 11 and 12. Mitchum was hanging tough, making a birdie on the opening hole and then reeling off 12 straight pars before making another birdie at the par-4 14th, tying Olivo at minus 9.
Mitchum felt confident approaching the par-4 15th hole, which he birdied during the first round.
"Nate had made a few mistakes early in the nine and that allowed me to jump back in," Mitchum told reporters. "Once I birdied 14 and put a 4-iron to seven feet on 15, I knew that another birdie would shift things my way, and it would be tough to let that go.All I had to do was make sure I didn't make any major mistakes down the stretch."
A lip-out birdie putt by Mitchum on the 17th hole kept the margin at one stroke, setting up a dramatic finish on the 212-yard par-3 18th. Mitchum hit his tee shot to within 15 feet and Olivo followed with a shot so accurate that it struck Mitchum's ball, nudging it forward.
An official replaced Mitchum's ball, leaving it inches in front of Olivo's. Olivo putted first, only to see the ball hit the hole and lip out. Mitchum two-putted to secure the win.
"I told Nate that I'd feel bad about his lip-out if I hadn't done the same thing the hole before," Mitchum said. "He played super well except for a couple of mistakes on the back nine."
The win earned Mitchum $5,200 and puts him in first place in the Player of the Year points race. He won that honor four consecutive years -- 2004-2007.
Olivo had mentioned nerves in the first two rounds, saying that playing with the guys that are familiar with these tournaments, such as Mitchum, was intimidating at first. In the final round, nerves were what he was hoping for, feeling they would help him focus on his goal -- to win a Carolinas PGA Section major.
His next opportunity will come in June in the 45th Pepsi North Carolina Open. Mitchum will skip that event, the only CPGA major he hasn't won, to visit a brother in Washington state.
"I don't know what happened out there, to be honest," Olivo said in a press release."After I made the back-to-back bogeys, I was just thinking, 'Stop the bleeding.' It was a little disappointing -- you always want to come out and win -- but I had a great time, and being in contention for this tournament at this course was a good feeling for me."
Though Ketola had remained largely quiet for most of the final round, he rallied with back-to-back birdies, including a 20-footer on the par-3 18th, to gain a tie for second with Olivo. He finished with three birdies in the final five holes.
Eagle Point Golf Club assistant Curt Sanders Wilmington came in fourth with 70-68-69-207. John Carney, of Wilmington, and Cory Schneider, of Powells Point, rounded out the top five with matching scores of 208.
Will Morgan and Chad Gilligan, of Aberdeen, tied for 43rd with 219. Morgan had opened with a 69. Todd Camplin, of West End, was at 222 and William Carter, of Laurinburg, was at 225.
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