Claire Hutchison cupped her hands to her face as her father, Scott, lined up his last putt in Blount County Men’s Amateur golf tournament last Friday at Royal Oaks.
Scott Hutchison had twice finished runner-up in a tournament he’d been trying to win for more than a decade. On Friday alone, he’d rallied from two shots down after seven holes. Now, on 18, he stood over a 5-foot putt with a four-stroke cushion over challenger Michael Bradshaw as insurance.
He needed to hurry up, though. Claire, 7, had a gig to get to. There was church recital at 7:30, and the clock was ticking. When Hutchison calmly rolled in the winning putt, finishing with a 1-under par, 286 after four days on four courses, Claire, along with Angie Mershawn, Scott’s fiancée, sprinted down the hill to the green.
“I’m glad he won,” Claire beamed.
Composed while sitting atop the leaderboard from start to finish, Hutchison wiped away tears.
“Relief!” he said was the feeling. “Before it started, I felt, and I’m sure everybody did, that, ‘It’s my year.’”
It was more than lip service, Mershawn said.
“He’s been confident this week,” she said. “He felt good about the whole tournament.”
Michael Bradshaw, runner up a year ago, made sure it wasn’t easy for Hutchison, trailing by a stroke after first-round play last week at Lambert Acres. The University of Tennessee graduate and former collegiate golfer would pull even and stay there through second and third round play at Pine Lakes and Green Meadow Country Club, respectively.
Hutchison’s surge Friday, beginning with a birdie on No. 10, relegated Bradshaw to second with a four-day total of 3-over 290. Josh Wheeler would finish third in the championship flight at 292, with former champion Ron Waters, 297, and Gary Wear, 301, rounding out the top five.
Travis Propst held off Tim Bridgman by a stroke, 291-292, to win the Open Division first flight. Dustin Shepard, Mike Crawford and Robert Wright tied for second flight honors with matching 307s after four rounds. Jonathan Snyder captured the third flight with a 315, with Larry Dockery, 332 taking the fourth flight. Former Heritage High basketball star Jordan Johnson and Josh Gourley tied for best in the fifth flight at 356.
Green Meadow general manager Bobby Perkinson cruised to the Senior Division championship with a four-course 292, with Bob Brim taking the Super Senior Division at 302.
Hutchison, a former Alcoa High School golfer, birdied No. 10 on Friday to pull even. Bradshaw then yielded a stroke with a bogey on 11. With a birdie on 12, Hutchison moved to two up, an advantage he would never relinquish.
“I just tried not to be too aggressive,” Hutchison said. “Get too aggressive out here, and you can get into trouble.”
With a four-shot lead to start 18, Hutchison said he reminded himself to not look ahead.
“I felt like my tee shot was the most important shot,” he said. “Keep it between the houses. It really started to sink in after the first putt on No. 18.”
When the tournament’s final putt rolled home a shot later, Clair, needing little prompting, was off and running.