Legendary East Texas golfer Roy Pace looked on from afar, as his former First Tee student Joel Thelen sank a big putt on hole four Sunday afternoon as a part of the 83rd playing of the Energy Weldfab Meadowbrook Classic.
“That was big,” Pace whispered, to those nearby. “Really big. That puts him two up (on competitor Sam Fidone).”
Thelen was indeed the story for the first day of the tournament, as he shot a 61 – breaking a course record for a single round that stood for 63 years – to lead all players in the annual Classic, which dates back to 1937, one of the oldest tournaments in East Texas.
But it wasn’t to be, as Bullard’s Blake Elliott usurped Thelen in the final two days, finishing with an 11-under-par 205 to win the Energy Weldfab Meadowbrook Classic, always a battle not only within, but with other great golfers, and maybe most importantly, with the heat: the Classic, with the exception of a rain-delayed one in 2010, is always an endurance test, due to its July dates each year.
The event was played over three days – last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – here at Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center.
Elliott never even hit 70 on three straight very-hot days on the beautiful course that again listed this year among the Dallas Morning News’ best nine-hole courses in the state. But he was pressed by a number of golfers, the most by Thelen.
Thelen, though, had a couple of bogeys on the back nine on Sunday, and still overcame them to have a chance to send it to a playoff on the 18th and final hole, with Elliott having turned in his own card.
Playing in a foursome with Fidone, David Monaco, and Kirk Hale, all four of the players went long on 18, just off the green. And the drama came when Thelen missed a putt that would’ve tied Elliott, probably a 12-13 foot putt.
But Elliott’s lead was safe, and he collected the trophy and the top prize from Michael Clements of Energy Weldfab, and from tournament chairman Alan Clark at the end of the event.
Elliott is making quite the name for himself. He finished third in last year’s Texas State Open. He played golf at McNeese State, and was last year’s Southland Conference Golfer of the Year, turning pro after a fourth straight appearance at the NCAA regionals.
Clark, from Kilgore, was the chairman of the tournament committee, and that’s fitting – Clark was the last Kilgore golfer to win the tournament (just two years ago) and shares the all-time best score for the event with former champ Joseph Totah (-15).
Elliott carded a 69 on Friday, a 69 on Saturday and a 67 on Sunday for a three-day 205. Thelen finished a stroke back, hitting that 61 on Friday, but then a more-human 72 and 73 on Saturday and Sunday.
But he will always be able to say he broke a 63-year-old course record, set in 1957 by Dick Whetzle.
Josh Radcliff was third (207), and Fidone and Monaco each finished with a 208. Amateur Braxton Watkins shot a 65 on Friday and finished with a three-day 210.
The flights in the Classic aren’t the first, second, third, etc., but named instead after famed courses or tournaments. The Masters, or first, flight was won by Cameron Hubbard, with a three-day 220. John Dickerson and Matt Gandy each finished four strokes back (224). Scott Clark won the St. Andrews (or second) flight with a three-day 240 – Robert Payne followed Clark with a 241 and Jeff Caperton and Tom Watson each shot a 243.
Steve Long finished with a 235 to win the Pebble Beach flight. William Berryhill carded a 244 and Llynal Carey a 245. David Plunk won the Pine Hurst flight with a 253; Jim Griffin was second in that flight (256) and Brant Brantley, third (262).
Joe Elwood brought home the top slot in the Colonial, with a 266, holding off Forrest Williams (268). Gary Harrison was third (271).
For the third time since team play was added to the tournament, the Plunk family won the team crown – but this time, it was Kenneth Plunk Sr. and his grandsons, instead of his sons: Alex and Jacob Plunk both of Amarillo, the sons of Ken Plunk Jr., and John David Plunk, David Plunk’s son, of Denton.
The tournament is one of, if not the, oldest in East Texas, dating back to the course’s earliest days. There has only been one year since without the tournament being played: 1955, when the clubhouse was being remodeled.
Energy Weldfab was the title sponsor yet again, and tee markers around the course featured their logo, as well as the flags at the pins, and a special framed banner that Elliott received along with the trophy.