Pippin grabs State Am victory
By By Stan Caldwell / special to The Star
June 10, 2002
HATTIESBURG Lane Pippin might want to bronze his pitching wedge after the work it did for him on Sunday. But then he'll probably need it the next time he plays a major tournament.
It was Pippin's wedge that continually bailed him out of trouble on the final nine holes of the 87th Mississippi Golf Association Amateur Championship at Canebrake Golf Club, and helped him nail down his first State Am title.
Pippin, a 26-year-old from Ocean Springs who played collegiately at Ole Miss, fired a 3-under-par 68 Sunday for a 72-hole total of 8-under-par 276, four shots better than Michael Hodges of Canton, who was runner-up for the second consecutive year.
Four-time defending champion Rett Crowder of Madison was denied a fifth straight crown, shooting a 2-under par 69 Sunday to finish the tournament at 3-under 281.
Pippin took over the lead in the tournament on Friday after shooting a 69, while Crowder was laboring to a 75 under difficult conditions. Once he got the lead, he kept it. A steady 1-under 70 on Saturday gave him a one-shot lead over Hodges, and Pippin knew as soon as he arrived Sunday that he was ready to win.
And Pippin got out of the box in a hurry, navigating the front nine in 3-under par, despite not being particularly accurate off the tee, and it could have been better.
He missed an eagle putt at the par-5 second hole, settling for a birdie, and another eagle attempt went awry at the par-5 fifth hole. On the par-4 sixth, he chipped to within five feet of the pin on his approach and sank the easy birdie putt.
Hodges, on the other hand, started slowly, with bogeys on two of the first three holes. A birdie at No. 6 earned him one stroke back, but he still made the turn at 1-over-par 37.
It was pretty clear the golf gods made their decision who was going to win halfway through the final round. While Hodges was missing birdie putts by inches, Pippin was saving pars out of serious trouble.
Pippin saved pars on par-4 11th and par-3 12th, then got a break when his second shot at the par-5 13th landed next to a drain and he was allowed a drop into a more favorable stance.
He birdied the par-4 14th, then bogeyed the par-4 15th. He was in the sand at the par-3 16th, but saved par, then ended up across the cart path beyond the green on 17 and still made par-4. By contrast, Hodges had birdies at 11 and 18, but missed makeable birdie putts on four straight holes from 12 through 15.
Crowder also had his chances. After a bogey at the par-3 fourth, he made birdies at 5 and the par-4 ninth to reach the turn at 1-under 35, then he birdied 10, as well. But an errant tee shot into the woods on 13 led to a bogey-6, and that was it for Crowder.
Greg Martin of Starkville fired an even-par 71 Sunday to finish fourth at 3-over-par 287. Austin Bowen of Hattiesburg held on to a tie for fifth place after shooting 4-over 75 Sunday, finishing the tournament at 4-over-par 288, tied with Will Dottley of Greenville.
Former Meridian Community College standout Dan Luke of Decatur had a tough day Sunday, after playing his way into contention on Saturday with a 3-under-par 68. Starting at 2-over for the tournament, Luke struggled in at 8-over-par 79 for the final round and a four-day total of 10-over-par 294.
Doyle Bryan was the only other Meridian area player to finish the tournament, carding a 7-over-par 78 Sunday to finish at 15-over-par 299.