It was almost enough to make a grown man cry – until that grown man redeemed himself.
Sunday evening, the sweltering East Texas heat having subsided in Kilgore thanks to some showers, Brent Akins approached the final green of his pursuit of theEnergy Weldfab Meadowbrook Classic trophy – and watched as his second shot smacked off the nearby cart path and landed on the hill just above the green, a long way from the pin.
Akins stopped a moment to make sure members of the crowd were ok; the ball missed them completely, however, and nestled into the grass. But the tournament’s leader knew he had his work cut out for him. As his fellow competitors looked on, though, Akins took one shot to get the ball onto the green, and then made an excellent putt, a putt that allowed him to become the champion of the 79th playing of the tournament, at the course now known as the Meadowbrook Golf and Events Center.
“I was (worried) when I hit the one shot,” Akins laughed, as he secured the rather large crystal trophy afterward. When did he calm down, he was asked: “When I hit that putt,” he smiled.
With that, Akins, from Spring Hill, becomes a two-time champion, one of 15 men in the tournament’s long history to win more than one championship, and one of 12 to claim the title twice. Over the three-day, 54-hole tournament, Akins set a blistering pace. He shot 68 on Friday, another 68 on Saturday, and then finished with a 72 on Sunday, just enough to edge his closest competition.
In winning, Akins had to hold off Tyler’s Bryan Baker, who was the two-time defending classic champion, seeking to become the first man to “three-peat,” and win three. Baker’s quest ended by the narrowest of margins: he and Andrew Koonce finished tied for second, at 209 each, just one stroke behind Akins.
“It was another great, great tournament,” chairman Bobby Beane said. “We’re so proud of the way these guys played and competed. And what a championship flight.”
Devin Jackson shot a 213 to finish fourth and Alan Clark a 214 for a fifth-place finish.
Organizers began back in 2000 to call the other flights – typically simply referred to as the “first,” “second,” and so on – by names of famed courses, or tournaments, as a way of honoring the game of golf. The first flight, for instance, is called the Masters flight; the second is the St. Andrews flight; the third, the Pebble Beach flight; the fourth, the Pine Hurst flight; and the Colonial the final flight.
A local golfer, Ryan Oden, brought home the Masters flight trophy. Oden, the grandson of longtime Kilgore High School basketball coach Donnie Oden, shot a three-day 220. John Dickerson finished second (222) and Rob Wilbanks third (229).
Another local, Tom Watson, claimed the St. Andrews flight (230), with John Patterson finishing second (231) and Todd Chappell third (233). Bill Fisher shot a 238 to claim the Pebble Beach flight, repeating as champion after shooting a 240 to win it in 2015. Jess Stephens was second (243) and Gary Park and Ken Plunk, Jr. tied for third (244). Wes Skeeters shot a 249 to claim the Pine Hurst flight; Zane McDonald and David Plunk tied for second (253 each). And Josh Spalding shot his way out of trouble late in his round on Sunday to fire a 262 three-day total to win the Colonial flight; Joe Elwood also shot a 262 and came in second; Greg Holmes’ 265 was good for third. It was Spalding’s second time to win the Colonial; he did so back in 2012, as well.
The team of Clark, Elwood, Long and Barton won the team competition (with a 242 final score).
See complete scores from the tournament with this story.
Had Baker been able to catch Akins, he would’ve made history. Baker won his second classic championship last year, becoming only the third man to win in back-to-back years – Rick Maxey pulled off that feat in 1974-75, and Seane Richardson in 1998-99.
Baker sought to become the fourth man to win at least three classic titles. Mike Mayo (who won in 1978, 1981 and 1987) also has three. Maxey and Raleigh Selby are the kings of the classic. Each man has four. Selby, who has passed on, won in 1941, 1945, 1950, and 1964. Maxey’s four came over a longer span: he won the two in the mid-70’s, then won in 2000, and again, incredibly, in 2008.
And Maxey looked on from his own cart on Sunday, as Akins wrapped his own second championship.
Akins and the other golfers had to sit through about an hour and a half, total, of weather delays on Sunday, but that was the only real hiccup in the tournament, which ended around 8:50 p.m. Sunday night with the trophy being presented by Beane to Akins.
Mike Clements’ Energy Weldfab was the tournament’s primary sponsor again this year.
Platinum sponsors were Capco Contractors Inc., Citizens Bank and J. Michael Beane Consulting.
Gold sponsors were Kilgore National Bank, Laird Insurance Agency, Meadowbrook Golf Association, the Merritt family, the Plunk family (who won the team title in 2000, 2010 and 2012), Terry Stembridge and the Ward Agency.
Silver sponsors were Austin Bank, Gary and Pat Boyd, Jackie and Vicki Clayton and the Back Porch, Maness Furniture of Kilgore, McAlister Printing, Mobbs Builders, Sabine Pipe, Inc., Skinner’s Grocery and Market, and Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.
The tournament’s championship committee this year included chair Bobby Beane, Mike Bean, Alan Clark, Scott Clark, Mike Clements Jr., David Cline, Greg Collins, Will Hale, Melvin Jordan, Harvey McClendon, Daniel Nichols, Kenneth Plunk, Josh Spalding, Ross Taylor, Jack Ward and Tom Watson. Joan Barthelemess was the committee’s secretary.