The rain and lightning did its best to slow them down – well, actually it did slow them down – but the title-flight players of the Energy Weldfab Meadowbrook Classic were good sports, and capped off an entertaining tournament Sunday evening with a new champion.
Stetson McMillan of Lindale, who only had two bogeys the entire weekend in three shortened rounds of championship golf, held off course master Bryan Baker to capture the classic’s 80th playing, taking the trophy with a 169, edging out Baker by four strokes (173).
The championship flight, though, only played 45 holes, instead of the customary 54 (18 a day, for three days). That was necessary due to a long Saturday, which saw the title-flight players take things to about 9 p.m., struggling for light to finish nine holes.
So 18 holes were played Friday, nine on Saturday, and then the regular 18 again on Sunday, although there were lightning delays on Sunday, as well, forcing the leaders to race the clock once again. They finally finished the tournament around 8 p.m. Sunday.
McMillan and Baker were two of four players – Andrew Bloch and Kilgore’s Alan Clark were the others – to shoot under 70 on the first day. McMillan and Baker, fittingly enough, were tied at 67 after one round, and played each other neck-and-neck almost the entire way.
Baker had a costly double-bogey on Saturday, and McMillan was able to hold him off. Incredibly, McMillian never looked rattled. He had only two bogeys the entire tournament, both of them coming on Sunday on the back nine. By that time, though, he had built a six-stroke cushion and was able to absorb the mistakes and hold on for the victory in spite of the dogged pursuit by Baker.
Baker might not have finished up with the trophy, but he has had an incredible run. He became only the third man to repeat as champion by winning in 2014, then again in 2015. He lost by just one stroke to Brent Akins last year, and then finished second again this year.
Baker also had second-place finishes in 2011 and 2012.
McMillan, a standout golfer at Lindale High School and then again for Stephen F. Austin University, just missed qualifying for the U.S. Open last month. McMillan’s goal, of course, is to get onto the PGA Tour.
This was McMillan’s first appearance in the Meadowbrook Classic.
Joey Thelan finished third on the championship flight with a 177, and ageless wonder Rick Maxey of Longview and former Kilgore High School golfer Patrick Palmer finished tied for fourth (178). Clark and Frost, who played with McMillan, each shot a 179.
Maxey is one of Meadowbrook’s most celebrated and decorated players. The 68-year-old is one of just two men to win the classic four times (the late Raleigh Selby is the other). Maxey’s titles have been scattered over 40-plus years: he won back-to-back tournaments in 1974 and 1975, added another in 2000, and then claimed yet another, his record-tying fourth, in 2008. He seems to always be in the hunt.
Meadowbrook men’s champ Ryan Oden, who just won that title in a tournament two weeks ago, checked in at 181, as did Akins, the 2016 classic champion.
See complete scores for the tournament with this story.
The other flights were all able to compete the regular 54-hole format. Patrick Rhodes shot a 213 over three days to claim the Masters, or first flight – the classic honors legendary courses or tournaments by naming the flights after them, rather than just first, second, etc.
Daniel Pepper shot a 224 to claim the St. Andrews flight championship. Justin Adair (230) held off Charles Veazey (233) to win the Pebble Beach flight. Don White edged Robert Nichols by two (White had a 237) to win the Pine Hurst flight, and Josh Pollick had a 243 to claim the Colonial flight title. Pollick is another former KHS golfer, and was part of the Bulldogs’ 2016 golf team that played in the regional tournament.
Pollick’s teammate at KHS, Jacob Mobbs, was also in the tournament. Mobbs played on the Masters flight and had a three-day 228.
The Meadowbrook Classic is one of, if not the, oldest continuously-played golf tournaments in East Texas, dating back to 1937. The only year it wasn't played since was a clubhouse remodeling in 1955.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The main sponsor of the tournament was again Energy Weldfab, which was unintentionally left out of the print edition of the News Herald. The News Herald regrets the error and is happy to set the record straight.