The key to protecting a lead in sports is to not allow your opponent to believe he can win.
Davey Jude took that philosophy to heart as he began the final round of the 34th BNI Memorial Tournament, sponsored by First Community Bank. Jude started the day with a two-stroke lead over Brandon Waters and five shots over a group of players, including past BNI Memorial Tournament champions Mike Mays and Brandon Reece.
Reece, the defending champion, made things interesting, but Jude was able to hold him off and claim his first BNI championship.
“I came out today with the mindset to keep the gas pedal down and go out and shoot another couple under, ’cause if I did that, it was going to be really hard for somebody to beat me,” Jude said.
Jude narrowly missed a birdie putt on No. 1, but quickly made birdies on the next two holes to push his lead to three shots over Waters.
But golf is a fickle game. For one swing, golf is your best friend and the next it is your worst nightmare.
It showed just how fickle over the remainder of the front nine holes.
Jude stepped up on the No. 4 tee box with all the momentum in his direction, but a loose swing pushed his shot right into the trees, leading to a bogey and dropping the lead back to two shots.
“I hit an iron off the tee, aiming down the right center, and the wind got a hold of it, pushing it just a little bit into the trees,” Jude said. “I hit a good recovery shot, but three-putted for bogey.”
The par-5 fifth hole brought Jude and Waters into a tie for the lead when another bad approach shot by Jude led to his second straight bogey. Meanwhile, Waters was making a birdie that erased Jude’s two-shot lead.
“I was in a perfect spot after the drive and got quick and shanked it really,” Jude said. “I got lucky and it hit the trees and came back out for me.”
Golf then turned on the streaking Waters.
Two bad swings led to consecutive double bogeys for Waters, pushing Jude’s lead back out to three shots, a lead he would build after the front nine to five shots over Waters and seven shots over the next closest player, Brandon Reece.
“I got into the greenside bunker on six and was short-sided and couldn’t get (the ball) out and it cost me a double (bogey),” Waters said. “I just blocked the approach shot and the ball plugged in the bunker.”
Waters’ tee shot on the par-3 seventh hole also found the bunker, resulting in another buried lie and leading to his second straight double-bogey.
With the lead well in hand and the tournament seemingly over after nine holes, Reece came alive after a 2-over-par 38 on the front nine.
Reece knocked it stiff on hole No. 11 and Jude made a bogey to close the lead to five shots with seven holes to play.
Jude looked to regain the momentum when he stepped on the par-5 No. 12 tee and bombed a drive down the middle of the fairway ahead of Reece’s ball. After Reece had hit his ball on the back of the green, Jude hit a wedge to within seven feet of the hole.
His eagle putt would not fall, however, and Reece two-putted for a birdie to remain five shots back of the lead.
Both players knocked it to within 15 feet on No. 14, where Reece drained his putt for birdie, only to see Jude follow right behind with a birdie of his own in what turned out to be a huge putt down the road.
Over the next three holes, Reece made a birdie and two pars, while Jude made a par and two bogeys to drop the lead down to two shots with the par-5 18 hole upcoming.
Jude made what golfers hate to call “a good bogey” on No. 17.
After pulling his tee shot over the hill and behind some trees, he was staring double-bogey right in the face. He bounced his chip shot up the hill onto the fringe and his putt hit the edge of the hole but would not fall for par.
Reece was among many golfers impressed with the score.
“That bogey on 17, that was a helluva bogey,” Reece said. “You can easily make double or triple (bogey) from down there.”
After both players split the fairway with their drives and laid up on their second shots, Jude hit his third shot on the green, about 20 feet away for a birdie, putting the pressure back on Reece.
Reece’s approach shot came up short in the rough, just short of the green. Knowing birdie was a must to have any chance of a win, Reece stepped up and chipped his next shot in the hole for a birdie, shifting the pressure back to Jude.
Jude would not be denied, however, making two nice putts to seal his first BNI title.
“I played pretty well on the last nine holes; just too bad it didn’t happen a little earlier,” Reece said. “If I could have started off with that nine, it might have led to a few things.”
“He just didn’t let up on me,” said Jude. “He birdied 11, 12, 14 and 18. The chip-in on 18 kinda made me a little nervous.”
Both players had mutual respect for each other and the efforts put forth on the day.
“He (Jude) did everything he had to do,” Reece said. “He played well.”
Jude, making his second BNI appearance, credited the experience he earned this past school year on the Marshall University golf team as part of his success.
“This is such a great tournament they put on every year. Playing college golf and big tournaments like this, just prepares you so much for everything in the future,” he said.
Reece shot a 69 and was the only player to find red figures on a tough day at the Cobb Course. Winston Canada had it going early and finished at even-par 72 to finish in third place.
Waters came in fourth and Ed McCall was fifth after a round of 74. Greg Midkiff was sixth and tournament regular Alan Wharton came in seventh.