Mitch Hufstetler had won the senior division of the first three Chattanooga TPC series golf tournaments this year: the Cleveland, Signal Mountain and North Georgia invitationals. Saturday, he trailed Pat Corey by two strokes as he stood on the tee of the final senior-division hole of the Chattanooga Men's Metro.
"I thought I needed at least a birdie on 18 and have Pat make a bogey to get in a playoff," Hufstetler said inside the Brainerd Golf Course clubhouse.
But Hufstetler won by a stroke with a par, increasing his run to four straight senior titles. He didn't win in the fashion he would have preferred, or in the fashion he won the other events.
The final hole played out in slow motion, resulting in a quick exit from the clubhouse for Corey.
"Today was definitely luck," Hufstetler said. "Bad luck on Pat's part."
Hufstetler won with a 36-hole total of 1-under-par 139. Corey shot 140 and was followed by Tom Baird at 142, edging Randy Yoder in a scorecard playoff.
Matt Robertson leads the regular division -- which will be determined by the top 25 and ties beginning play today at 8 a.m. -- with an 8-under 132. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore Brooks Thomas is one stroke back. Veterans Jay Potter and Bob Rice trail by two, and first-round leader Wayne Woolfall is five off the lead.
"I haven't won the Metro and I don't know that I've ever been close," Robertson said. "Brooks started playing better on the back nine, and we started to feed off each other."
The bad luck for Corey started with his tee shot. He pulled it left on No. 18 -- a usual par-5 being played as a par-4 for this tournament -- and into a grove of trees. His second shot hit a limb and darted into a hazard lining the left side. He took a drop and hit an approach short short of the green. With an up-and-down, following Hufstetler securing a par, Corey could have forced a playoff.
His eight-foot putt missed by a hair.
"It rolled a little below the hole," said Hufstetler, who has two more tournaments to complete a supreme slam of senior titles. "Winning at Cleveland was the survival of the fittest. At Signal [Mountain] I was solid, and the NGI was about as good as I could play."
Only four players broke par 70 Saturday. Robertson and Potter shot 67, while Thomas and Rice shot 69. The final grouping today will include Robertson, Thomas and Potter starting at 9:30 a.m. off No. 1 of the course designed by Donald Ross.
The younger guys are the favorites. Robertson plays Brainerd more days than he doesn't, and he works there. Thomas plays or practices almost every day. Potter, 45, and Rice, 53, know they can still win by using their wisdom and patience.
They both used their veteran skills Saturday.
"It's just grinding out here," Rice said. "I don't hit it so far, but this isn't a bombers course. And I've putted well.
"I don't have high expectations, so I'll come play with these young guys and see what number I can put up there."
Potter can't recall the last time he had a final-round shot of winning a TPC event, but he said he can recall almost every shot he made to break par for the first time. He did it at Brainerd.
"Like a lot of older guys, I grew up out here," said Potter, who had three birdies and an eagle in his last nine holes. "I'm going to take what happens and go from there.
"It worked on the back today."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him 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 ...