One phone call from tournament co-director Richard Keene and some clearance from his girlfriend is all Chris Hall needed to play in the Brainerd Invitational this weekend.
He needed much more to win.
Hall needed a 3-under start on the first day. He needed a birdie on the 17th hole Sunday at Brainerd Golf Course, plus an eagle on the final. He also used some misfortune from first-round leader Josh Nelms.
Hall emerged from a pack of 10 golfers within three shots of the lead by shooting a 6-under 66 on Sunday and 9-under 135 to win the championship for a third time.
"I was sitting on the 18th tee and asked what else was going on and I thought, 'I'll take second place and that wouldn't be bad," said Hall, who played junior-college golf with Keene at Alexander City College and won the title in 1996 and 2002. "Then I made the eagle putt and thought that 9 under is a good score, and it has a chance to get in a playoff."
It was good enough to win.
Nelms shot 2-under on Sunday to finish runner-up at 8 under. It's a disappointing second for Nelms who owned a two-shot lead over Hall at 5:30 in the evening and accepted runner-up an hour later.
"I felt like I was going to win," Nelms said. "And I didn't."
Defending champion Hunter Vest placed third with a 68 on Sunday. Wayne Woolfall and Brandon Cissom tied for fourth at 6 under.
Mike Jenkins followed up a first-round 67 -- including a 7-under 29 on the back nine -- with a 74 and won the senior division at 3 under by one stroke over Tom Baird and by two over Randy Yoder.
"I can't believe I finished third because I felt like I left too many putts out there," Vest said. "I couldn't find the hole and made just one putt longer than four or five feet. Defending was the plan, but being third in that field is still a good finish."
Nelms bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes to drop to 7 under. Nelms, a 29-year-old who played at Middle Tennessee State, asked for a scoring update before hitting his tee shot into the par 3 17th. Told he trailed by two, Nelms stuffed his shot hole-high and made a curling 10-foot putt.
A birdie on the last would get him in a playoff. With an eagle, he would win. But he pulled his tee shot long and had to put his heels on concrete to hit his second shot. The punch-shot bounced on the top tier of the green and over into light rough.
With the pin close to the downhill slope of the tier, a perfect flop-shot was necessary. It rolled past the hole and down the hill. Nelms missed the birdie putt of about 35 feet by two inches on the left side.
"I tried to hit a perfect flop," Nelms said. "I shouldn't have hit it there in the first place. The putt went right over the left edge and it was breaking straight up the ridge."
It broke just enough to let Hall a break and send let him accept the trophy and drive it back to his home to Kennesaw, Ga.
"I've talked to my son, to Donny Phillips, and even Richard called me back," Hall said, while driving on I-75. "I tried to call my girlfriend. But she never picks up."
After all, she gave her OK for him to play.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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