LUMBERTON — Larry Cloninger and John Haskins never lost the lead during the second round of the Kiwanis All-American Golf Tournament but it came close.
Even as the two got into the tee box on No. 18, the duo of Stephen Pippin and Chip Collins was only a stroke behind and playing in the same group.
“Larry said let’s hit two good tee shots and put the ball in play,” Haskins said.
It was a simple strategy that was executed near perfectly as they both kept the ball towards the middle of the fairway and set up for their final approach. They parred the hole, Pippin and Collins bogeyed, and a two-day total of 16-under-par 128 gave the brothers-in-law their second Kiwanis championship.
“I think those were probably the best two tee shots we hit together all weekend,” Cloninger said.
Their first win was in 2009 and neither has won with a different partner.
Pippin and Collins finished two strokes behind at 14-under-par 128 and Mark Lassiter and Keith McGirt took third with a 10-under-par 134, beating three other teams in a scorecard playoff. Mark Kinlaw and Jeff Wishart, Ryan Bass and Yarnell Locklear and David Lowery and Ashton Woods also finished at 134.
It ends a run of several years where Haskins and Cloninger narrowly lost. They took second place by three strokes last year when Dyrck Fanning and Scott Benton went 10 under on the final day. In 2012, they lost in a three-team playoff.
“It’s good to not finish second. We’ve done that quite a few times,” Haskins quipped.
The two-stroke margin of victory was the same as the first day against the same team as before, with the final group consisting of the same Haskins/Cloninger/Pippin/Collins foursome as the first day.
Day 2 was just as close. Whenever Pippin and Collins started to narrow the gap, Haskins and Cloninger had an answer.
Collins opened the round with a birdie on 1 but Cloninger placed his opening shot on two within five feet of the hole to set up a birdie putt. Another birdie on No. 6 put Haskins and Cloninger up two strokes.
The lead increased further after Pippin and Collins bogeyed the par-3 No. 7, which Cloninger followed with an eagle on No. 8, a par-5.
“That was probably the best two shots I’ve hit back-to-back all weekend,” Cloninger said. “I hit a solid drive, five iron and made a good putt.”
Cloninger’s play throughout the day was largely fundamental, with drives to the center of the fairway followed by simple approaches.
Pippin and Collins got back within two strokes after Birdies on Nos. 9, 11 and 12, a process aided by struggles after the turn by their opponents.
A birdie by Cloninger on No. 14 and a birdie by Haskins on No. 15 got the lead back to three strokes, though the lead was narrowed to one by the final tee.
“We scrambled for pars on a lot of holes but … the birdie on 14, they were inside of our birdie putt,” Cloninger said. “We made it, they missed. I thought that was key.
“That was the turning point.”
Pippin said the biggest struggle than he and Collins had were with their bogeys on Nos. 7 and 18.
“In order to win this golf tournament, for two men you’ve got to be able to play bogey free and John Haskins and Larry Cloninger played 36 holes without making a bogey, so they deserve to win,” he said. “The little putt we missed on No. 7 and the bogey on No. 18 were detrimental. If we proved to be as good as they were and would have parred those two holes, we would have been even with them.
Pippin had been looking for his second Kiwanis title, having won in 2008 with Jay Floyd. Collins, who lives in Cumberland County, was playing in his first Kiwanis tournament.
“I wish we had something comparable to this at home,” Collins said. “I enjoyed playing here. I know quite a few of the guys from playing up here on Fridays and such.”
Lonail Locklear continued his recent run of success as he and partner Marty Hunt scored a 4-under-par 68 for the second straight day to win the first flight with a two-day total of 136.
Locklear won the regular mens division title at the Robeson County Golf Championships last month.
“Here on in I’ve just been playing better and better,” he said. “I’ve not been playing more. I’ve just been hanging out, playing with good friends. I’m giving the Lord all the credit.”
Joseph Martin and Nick Dial won the second flight and Larry McNeill and Carlton Dial won the third. Chris Jackson and Ronnie Hunt won the fourth, Mel Britt and Danny Lassiter won the fifth and Ron Oulette and Dennis Harrell won the sixth.