The last guy to race away from the field at the Blount County Men’s Amateur like this is now on the pro tour. Beginning with qualifying for the state amateur later this month, Phillip Lee would like to be next.
Lee defended his 2009 county championship in head-turning fashion during a four-course tour last week. The 2004 Catholic graduate won with a record-low score after final round play at Pine Lakes Golf Course last Friday.
Lee’s 17-under par 207 proved too big of a gap for runner-up Kevin Gryder to close and is five strokes better than the winning mark carded by former champion Garrett Willis, whose 12-under is believed the best score ever recorded for the event.
Willis is currently ranked 91st on the PGA Tour.
Lee broke par on all four rounds during the tournament, punctuated by an emphatic 65 at Pine Lakes. The 69, 68 and 68 carded at Green Meadow Country Club, Royal Oaks and Lambert Acres, respectively, was just the kind of consistency he was looking for after last year, Lee said.
Lee trailed first-round leader Trey Bridwell by a stroke before the former’s 68 on Day 2 vaulted him into a lead he would never relinquish. Lee was the only player to shoot in the 60s all four days of the tournament.
“I obviously got some help from the rest of the guys,” Lee said. “I didn’t think it would create that big of a gap. This year I was a little bit more consistent.”
Lee entered the final round with a seven-stroke lead. He didn’t simply try to shoot par, Gryder said. Throughout the final round, Lee proved a shot maker no one could get near.
“If you’re going to try to catch that, you’ve got to go for everything,” Gryder said. “I was more concerned with (third-place finisher) Trey (Bridwell) catching me than catching Phillip.”
Bridwell finished five shots back of Gryder for third, with Michael Bradshaw fourth. Gary Wear was fifth.
Next for Lee is qualifying for the state amateur championships July 20 at Holston Hills, “and we’ll go from there,” he said. The State Amateur Championship Aug. 3-6 at Hillwood Country Club in Nashville.
The two-time Blount County champion said he hopes to add the Knoxville News Sentinel Open to his resume later this summer.
Chuck Jones won the Open Division first flight with a four-day total of 286, with Joe Harrington eight back. Mike Treadway took the second flight at 300, with Jamie Chambers coming in three back.
Tommy Hatcher edged Randall Honea, 317-319, to win third flight honors. Robert Wright was best in the fourth flight at 327, edging Eric Jones by three strokes. The three-stroke margin of victory continued in the fifth flight in the Open Division, with Mike Williams besting Billy Thompson, 346-349.
Former champion Ron Waters held off Bobby Perkinson to claim honors in the Senior Division, 283-287. Jim Gillespie parlayed strong rounds on the tournament’s first two days to stay clear of Larry Darnes in the Super Senior Division with a winning margin of 284-291.