LUMBERTON — Standing over a nearly 10-foot birdie putt with a chance to win the 39th annual Kiwanis All-American Golf Tournament on Sunday, Larry Cloninger had a three-hour trip home on his mind.
“I didn’t want to hang around for a playoff,” he said. “I knew I had to make it.”
Cloninger drained the putt, raising his fist toward the sky in celebration of a third Kiwanis title with teammate and brother-in-law John Haskins. The two posted a 17-under-par 127 at Pinecrest Country Club, earning a one-stroke victory over Steve Pippin and Will Morgan.
“It’s the best putt I made all day,” Cloninger said. “This was a good win.”
Haskins, women’s basketball coach at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, said he knew the situation as the two made their way to the par-4 18th.
Cloninger needed a reminder.
“I thought we had a two-shot lead,” he said, “But John said we had a one-shot lead when we got to No. 18. Then when we got in the fairway we heard the screams and yells from the green.”
The “screams and yells” were coming from Pippin, whose teammate Morgan rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt to tie Haskins and Cloninger. With the pressure mounting, Cloninger was ready for the moment, smoking his drive down the middle of the fairway for a chance at a solid approach to the green.
“I had a 6-iron from about 178 yards, made a good shot and John read the putt,” he said.
Once Cloninger got to the green, Haskins was confident in his teammate’s ability to seal the victory.
“We saw it as a left-edge putt and he putted it as aggressive as he putted one all day,” Haskins said. “It was a no-doubter.”
It’s the third overall title for the duo and the second in three years. They won by two strokes in 2014 and earned their first victory in 2009.
“It was pretty cool to win it with a birdie on the last hole,” Haskins said. “I’ve been a coach all my life and clutch players come through in the clutch. Larry is a helluva player; We brother-in-lawed it pretty good. It was fun to win it that way.”
After opening the tournament with a 62 on Saturday, Cloninger and Haskins closed with a final-round 65.
Haskins got the duo off to a good start with a birdie on the opening hole and No. 3. They birdied all four par 5s, with their only bogey of the round coming on the par-3 seventh. The other birdie came on the par-4 13th.
“We played good (on Saturday) and John started out unbelieveably (on Sunday),” Cloninger said. “He played great. We kind of switched roles on the back and I got it going. John was right there with me.”
Pippin and Morgan also carded 65 to earn second place. Dyrck Fanning and Scott Benton entered the final round tied with Haskins and Cloninger for the lead, but finished third after posting 68. Mark Lassiter and Keith McGirt tied with defending champions Brad and Lonail Locklear for fourth.
David Rogers and Tray Martin won the first flight by two strokes over Bruce Mullis and Jeff Brown, with Joe Poole Jr. and Pete Lineberger earning a third-place finish.
David Lowry Jr. and Ashton Woods edged out Willie Jacobs and Willie Oxendine by one stroke to win the second flight, with Brian Taylor and Barry Lovick taking third.
Chuck Smith and Elliot Davis won the third flight in a scorecard playoff to beat Donnie Douglas and Tommy Britt. Pete and Phillip Maynor earned third.
Gerald Strickland and David Locklear won the fourth flight, beating Nickie McKeithan — winner of the first three Kiwanis tournaments— and Mike McKeithan. Jamie and Jeffrey Gause won third.
Jeff Hunt and Aaron Hunt took the fifth flight, with Tom Sampson and David Lowry Sr. earning second. John Adams and Bilal Muzaffar took third.
Garner Revels and Mike Ratley rounded out the winners with a victory in the sixth flight, beating Mike Tyson and John Rancke. Alan and Julie Fowlkes finished third.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.