LUMBERTON — Larry McNeill takes a simple approach to golf: Hit the ball straight, get it on the green and shoot for par.
“I knew if I shot a 72, I’d have a good chance to win,” McNeill said.
McNeill’s consistent approach paid off on Saturday at the Robeson County Golf Championships, presented by Dial Insurance, when he scored a 1-over-par 73 to come back and win the inaugural super seniors division with a two-day total of 4-over-par 148.
He limited his bogeys and birdied No. 13 to pass day 1 leader Bob McQueen, who finished at 7-over-par 151 after a 77 on Saturday.
“I feel real good about it,” “I was just short-parring. The card was just par-par-par. That’s what I like to see.”
Though the tee groupings hadn’t been flighted after the first day, all three of the leaders from the division’s opening round were paired together. McNeill and Truman Lowery entered the round tied for second at 75 with McQueen ahead at 74.
The other two in the group struggled on the front nine, scoring a 3-over 39, while McNeill scored even par, putting him up two strokes on McQueen before the turn. McQueen lost another stroke to McNeill on the back nine.
With his closest competition playing the same holes, McNeill admits there were nerves late in the round.
“I had three or four holes where I began to feel pressure coming back, trying to hold the lead but I managed and got the job done and that’s what counts,” he said.
Lowery dropped out of the top three with a 13-over-par 85 to finish the weekend at 16-over 160.
Jimmy Dail finished third with an 11-over-par 155 after dropping three strokes from his day 1 round due to some key putts.
“I was able to get it close and I didn’t have a lot of birdies, but I had a lot of pars,” he said.
Dail finished with one birdie in the tournament but ended with an even-par back nine.
“I was looking to improve and try not to get into any bad trouble,” he said.
Woods, Benton win junior titles
Before the Jamie Locklear takes his students on the course, he always encourages them to work on their short game.
“You say ‘We’re going to putt and we’re going to chip,’ and a lot of those kids get bored,” Locklear said. “They’re like ‘Coach Jamie, we want to go on the golf course.’ They don’t realize how important it is. Those three-footers, five-footers, six-footers.”
One of the few that doesn’t mind is 11-year-old Silas Woods, who won the junior boys division by 15 strokes on Saturday with a two-day total of 6-over-par 78. His closest competitor was Keison Oxendine, who dropped nine strokes from his first day to finish at 21-over-par 93 in his first tournament.
“Sometimes I three putt and it throws away shots,” Woods said.
Silas had one birdie each day and limited his putting mistakes.
The juniors field was relatively inexperienced, with older juniors playing in the regular mens division.
Maddellin Benton, daughter of Scott Benton, won the junior girls division with a two-day total of 104. She beat Lauren Locklear by three strokes and Issabella Oxendine by five.
“I’m very proud of her,” Jamie Locklear said.
All three girls have limited tournament experience.
Oxendine said she was nervous in her first tournament but dropped a stroke from her day one total of 55.
“I saw how I shot yesterday and I just wanted to improve, so I went home and practiced and practiced and I came out here today just trying to bring up my score,” she said.
Locklear had only played one tournament before and felt more relaxed.
“I did a little better because it’s the second one and I learned from my first one,” she said.
Jamie Locklear was pleased with all of the juniors, including seven-year-old Orri Maynor, who had a 103, and Ethan Evans, who dropped more than 20 strokes from his first tournament and finished at a 98.
“I’ve seen a big improvement from all these kids out here,” Locklear said. “That’s what it’s all about, to see those types of things happen.”