Jeff Pope sets record for Regions Bank Amateur Series titles



Jeff Pope rewrote the Regions Bank Amateur Series regular division record book Sunday at Jones Creek Golf Club. Kenny Larry added to his legacy in the senior division.

Pope rallied to win the E-Z-GO Jones Creek Classic, passing Jay Blackburn on the career victory list in the series, which started in 1988. Pope’s fourth win of the season gave him 13 career wins, one more than Blackburn.

“I’m excited to set the record after all the history in the series,” Pope said, reeling off names including Vaughn Taylor, Scott Brown, Scott Parel, Doug Weiss, Ron Schroder, Michael Carlisle and Daran Womack as former star players in the series.

And then there is Blackburn, who played just three times in 2012 and hasn’t played in any of the eight events this season. His last victory came in 2010, at Jones Creek.

“Jay was always, forever, the person to beat,” Pope said.

Pope trailed by two shots after the first round at Jones Creek but closed with 1-under-par 71 to beat fellow North Augustan Lance Johnson (74 on Sunday) by three shots, finishing at even-par 144.

Larry, of Augusta, beat North Augusta’s Glen Hurt in sudden death for his 21st career victory in the senior division. Mike Jackson and Ed Payne are a distant second on the wins list with 13 titles each.

Larry, who led by two shots after an opening 70, scrambled for a par on the final hole of regulation to shoot 77 and tie Hurt, who shot 73-74. Larry rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to win on the third hole of the playoff, which started on No. 1.

Pope’s victory clinched his second consecutive regular division player of the year title with one event left. With 75 points for the victory, Pope now has 357 points. Steve Foss, who finished seventh Sunday to earn 18 points, is second with 168 points.

Hurt’s runner-up finish improved his chances for a second consecutive senior player of the year title.

He came into the tournament trailing Tommy Carpenter, a three-time winner this season, by 38 points. Hurt picked up 50 points while Carpenter earned 18 for tying for seventh. That means Carpenter will carry a five-point lead over Hurt into the season finale this weekend at Belle Meade Country Club.

“I’m looking forward to it; I know it will be a battle with Tommy,” Hurt said.

Pope, who turned 48 earlier this month, has been on a tear since he started playing the series full time at the end of the 2011 season. Ten of his 13 wins have come since then, including four each in the past two seasons.

He was aware he would need four wins this season to pass Blackburn on the career victory list.

“I knew it was possible, but I wasn’t really sure,” Pope said. “It depended on how I played and how the fields played.”

As for the 58-year-old Larry, his 21st senior victory was a long time in coming, at least by his lofty standards. He had not won in eight starts, a span of more than 14 months.

“I thought I would win again,” Larry said. “I had a second (place finish) this year. I never lost confidence. I knew the competition was better. As I’ve gotten older, we’ve got newer, younger guys coming aboard and it makes it that much more difficult.

“It comes harder now,” Larry said of winning. “Before, I felt like every time I teed it up, I was going to win. Now I don’t think so confidently.”




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