AIKEN — Jeff Pope keeps winning Regions Bank Amateur Series tournaments in the regular division.
And Robert Samuels keeps finishing second in the senior division.
In the drizzling rain Sunday at Houndslake Country Club, Pope made the First Tee of Aiken Invitational his third victory in his past four starts in the series, dating back to last season.
“That’s a very good run,” Pope said.
This time, the North Augustan shot 67-74–141 to beat Grovetown’s Will Rogers (72-71) by two shots in the second event of the season.
As for Samuels, the hard knocks keep coming for the 56-year-old Hephzibah golfer. He lost on the third hole of sudden death to 63-year-old Frank Perry, of Fayetteville, Ga., who was a wizard with his long putter late in the round.
Since his last senior division victory in 2007, Samuels has now finished as a runner-up 15 times.
For the man affectionately known as “Lightning” by his fellow competitors, a victory can’t happen soon enough.
“I’m getting tired of it,” said Samuels. “They all hurt. I’ll get over it and go to the next one and try it again.”
“It’s almost hard to believe you could have that many runner-ups, isn’t it?” Perry asked. “That’s tough.”
It’s not as if Samuels is giving away tournaments. He and Perry were tied for the lead after opening 73s and shot those same scores again Sunday.
Perry, a former Augustan, had to scramble just to get in the playoff, then played his best golf of the day. Samuels, his playing partner, led him by two shots with three to go, but Perry birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and both parred the par-4 No. 18 to force extra holes.
On No. 18 in regulation, Perry, got up-and-down to save par from 40 yards in front of the green, making a 6-footer, after hitting his drive in a bunker.
The playoff also started at No. 18. After both parred the hole, they played it again and this time it looked like Samuels was going to break through. He rolled in an uphill 35-footer for birdie. Perry then made a 12-foot sidehill birdie to stay alive.
The playoff then moved to the par-5 first hole, where Perry made another 12-footer for birdie. When Samuels missed his 8-foot birdie putt, he had another runner-up finish.
“I’m doing all I can do,” Samuels said. “Frank played good, though. He came on strong. He played tough. I knew he would.”
Indeed, counting the three holes of sudden death, Perry was 4-under on his final six holes. He one-putted all six of those holes.
“I worked hard; it was do or die on all of those putts, and all of them had a lot of break,” Perry said. “I don’t think anybody could expect me or anybody else to make those.”
Especially after the way Perry started the day – he three-putted from 4 feet on the first hole, which turned out to be the hole he won the tournament more than five hours later.
During his hot putting streak at the end, Perry couldn’t shake Samuels, who was outplaying him from tee to green.
“You’ve got to give him credit for hanging in there when you see all those putts dropping,” Perry said. “That’s difficult.”
In the regular division, Pope’s wife, Ginger, went along for the ride on Mother’s Day, joining him in a golf cart.
The Popes have three daughters – ages 21, 19 and 15 – and two of them were home for Mother’s Day.
“The girls know that I wanted to watch him; I love for him to play,” Ginger Pope said. “I’m tickled he won. That’s the best Mother’s Day present he could give me.”
“She’s a trooper,” Jeff Pope said. “I had asked her if she minded me playing and she said, ‘No, I want you to play.’ She was my good luck charm last year at Jones Creek when she came out.”
Ginger Pope might have also played a role in helping her husband win Sunday.
Pope’s five-shot lead over Rogers at the start of the day was gone after 13 holes. At the time, Pope was 3-over on his round and Rogers 2-under.
“When I was struggling, she said, ‘Come on, just one hole at a time, you can do it,’ ” Pope said. “She came through today.”
“He was still playing good, but getting down on himself,” Ginger Pope said. “I kept saying, ‘Pars are good.’ ”
“Somewhere I just found it, and it came back and I played really good the last five holes,” said Jeff Pope, who was 1-under on those holes.