For Jeff Pope, his victory in the regular division meant the world. You could tell by the catch in his voice when he was asked about the significance of the win.
“I’ve been playing in this tournament for 30 years – since I was a teenager,” said the 46-year-old Pope, whose previous best finish had been a tie for third in 2002.
Pope, who led by two shots going into Sunday’s final round at Forest Hills Golf Club, closed with even-par 72 to win by three.
At the start of the day, he couldn’t help but notice that he was more than twice as old as his playing partners, who were 19, 20 and 22.
“I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but on the first hole it went through my mind that these guys are out here are trying to maybe win a golf tournament; I’m trying to fullfil a lifetime dream to win the city amateur,” Pope said. “To be able to play as I did, that was a like a dream come true.”
It was the third Regions Bank Amateur Series victory of the season for Pope and the eighth of his career, but the rest pale in comparison to this one.
“This is by far the most important – it’s not even close,” he said. “This is my major. This is big for me.”
Pope topped the strongest field of the year, never shooting over par while finishing at 7-under 209. He shot 71-66-72 to beat 19-year-old Davis Parker and 20-year Shad Tutten, who both closed with 73s, by three shots. Gaines Milliner, 22, was the other member of Pope’s group. He tied for fifth after a 73.
Will Rogers, with the day’s low round of 66, finished solo fourth, four behind Pope.
Pope closed out his victory about 20 minutes after Hurt won the senior division, making it a victory sweep for North Augusta residents.
“That’s incredible because we play in the same regular group at the River Club,” Pope said.
In winning for the fourth time as a senior, Hurt overcame what he called a “horrible finish” in the second round.
Hurt was in the lead before he made double bogeys on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 to shot 75 and fall two shots off Russell Maddox’s lead entering the final round.
Hurt started the final round on the back nine, and made double bogeys again on Nos. 16 and 17 to shoot 40 on the side.
“I’m kind of proud of that, just the fact that I hung in there,” Hurt said.
Hurt finished the tournament at even-par 216 after rounds of 69-75-72.
“I started at par and ended at par, but in between it was a true rollercoaster. I had a little bit of everything going on,” said Hurt.