[JULY 30-AUG 1 | BRYAN, TX] In the end, all it took was a one-foot putt to finally wrap up the championship, but the journey to get there was far less simple, or easy. But with his brother on the bag, Fayetteville’s Palmer McSpadden tapped in a gimmie for birdie on the 17th hole at the Traditions Club to beat Houston’s Jack Randle to capture his first major victory on the TJGT at the 3rd Annual State Match Play Invitational.
Randle, who was the runner up in this event last summer, had his chances coming down the stretch after falling behind early, and his 6-footer for birdie on the 17th hole at least forced McSpadden to putt out.
While the final putt was a simple one, McSpadden’s road to the finals was anything but. Narrowly avoiding the 6-man playoff for the final spots in the match play portion of the tournament, McSpadden was the 12-seed, and needed upset victories in two of his three matches to reach the finals. The most impressive was over 1-seed Jacob Borow in the semi-finals, in which McSpadden road a hot putter to a 2&1 victory, fending off multiple charges by Borow, who has been playing stellar golf this summer in his own right.
On the other side of the bracket, Randle, the 3-seed, had to fight hard in each of his three matches, none more so than in the semi-final match against his future college teammate (and roommate), Grayson Blunt of Kingwood. The two made almost a dozen birdies combined during the match, with Randle finally getting the best of Blunt on the 18th hole.
In the 36-hole stroke play qualifier, Borow captured the title and 1-seed with two rounds of 74-68=142. Texarkana sophomore Carter Maneth finished second with rounds of 76-68=144, and Randle took third with 71-76=147.
In the Girls Bracket, Southlake Carroll senior-to-be Ashton Begley took control of the tournament from the very first shot, and never once relinquished her tight grip in her quest for the title. Begley is the first wire-to-wire winner in the tournament’s history, as she lead the qualifier from the first round on, and then charged through the bracket as the No. 1 seed.
Her final match against Oak Ridge senior-to-be Sloane Bennett was easily as exciting as the boy’s final match. Begley jumped on Bennett early, winning the first few holes, but Bennett battled back in the middle of the round with a couple clutch birdie putts to stay within reach. In the end, however, it was two straight birdies on hole nos. 15 and 16 that sealed the victory for Begley, as Bennett was unable to answer on the greens.
For Bennett, few expected her to actually make the final match, let alone go blow-for-blow with Begley. Why? Because before starting the final match, Bennett had played a stunning 79 holes in two days – after the 36-hole qualifier, her first match went 22 holes, and her semi-final match went into darkness, after which she had to return the next morning before the finals and play two more holes before getting the win.
The expectation would have been for Bennett to be almost dead on her feet in the final round, but she somehow found her second (or fifth?) wind, and battled hard all day, constantly bombing drives well past Begley, and putting on a show in the middle of the round with her wedges. In the end, she needed just a few more putts to fall, however, or she could have captured the title herself.
In the 36-hole qualifier, Begley captured first place honors with rounds of 70-78=148, followed by Bennett (75-76=151) and Katy’s Kelsey Wylie (78-74=152).
Click here to see the full brackets, and here for stroke play results.