LUMBERTON — Dyrck Fanning isn’t sure how much longer he’ll participate in the Robeson County Golf Championship, but another victory for the five-time champion could give him some incentive to call it quits.
The 55-year-old has won the annual event in each decade since its inception in 1981 — except the 2010s.
“That’d be pretty neat,” Fanning said when asked about the possibility of earning a sixth title. “It would give me a good reason to quit trying.”
The three-day event, sponsored by Dial Insurance, swings into action Friday at Pinecrest Country Club. When Fanning steps on the course for the 36th edition, he’ll also look to become the oldest player to win the championship.
He won his first title in 1988, a trio of titles in the 90s — including back-to-back from 1996-97 — and his latest in 2005.
“It’s one of those things where you think about not playing, then you get a sick feeling in your stomach,” he said. “I still feel like I need to be out there.”
As for the current state of his golf game, Fanning is hoping to be more consistent this weekend than his recent play has shown.
“(My game) is actually not very good,” he said. “I’ve been trying not to overdo it this week because I’m getting to the age where three days of competitive golf in the heat is tough.”
The tournament runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday and includes five divisions for men and women. In addition to the Championship Division, there will also be a Senior Division, Super Senior Division, Ladies Division and a Regular Men’s Division.
The Championship Division, and the Super Senior divisions will start Friday, with the super seniors completing play on Saturday. The Senior, Ladies and Regular Men’s divisions will start Saturday and champions will be crowned Sunday. The field will be flighted after Saturday’s round.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 90 people are set to compete in the annual event.
Kyle Covington is the favorite to win the championship division, claiming his ninth title last year with a 9-under-par 207 to earn top honors for the second straight year. He won five straight from 2006-10.
Steve Pippin did all he could to challenge Covington, carding a 5-under-par 67 in the final round to claim a second-place finish at 4 under. Former champion Ian Locklear finished in third place at 3 under. Nick Dial and Brad Locklear at 1 under were the only other golfers to finish in red figures.
With a loaded — but light — championship flight, Fanning said he has “no idea” what to expect this weekend.
“There are always a couple of guys that can win it,” he said. “I’m just hoping to play good on Friday and Saturday, and keep my energy up for Sunday. I’ve yet to play my best and get beat. That’s why I really don’t worry about anyone else.”
Top finishers will automatically qualify for the Highlander Cup vs. Cumberland County in October.
A slew of thunderstorms soaked the course earlier this week, but with temperatures forcasted to be in the mid-90s throughout the weekend the course should firm up.
“The course is in fabulous shape,” said Dwight Gane, the head professional at Pinecrest. “We’ve had a lot of rain, but our greens are exceptional, the rough is thick and the fairways are exceptional. The only problem we’ve had is cleaning up debris left by all of the thunderstorms.”
Other champions from last year include: Junior Nance of the Senior Division, Stephanie Miller of the Ladies Division, Staley Jackson of the Super Senior Division and Connor Haskins of the Regular Men’s Division.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.