He went wire-to-wire to win the Ping Regions Invitational at Gordon Lakes Golf Course on Sunday, shooting under par both days to win by four shots.
But Pope’s 12th career victory – which ties him with Jay Blackburn for the all-time record in the 25-year-old series– was far from easy.
“I didn’t think I was going to win this one,” said Pope, who carried a one-shot lead into the final round.
Indeed, a victory didn’t seem likely after a bogey, double bogey, bogey start left Pope 4-over for the day after three holes and trailing playing partners Steve Foss and Bill Sheehan.
“It was like bad on bad on bad – three in a row,” said Pope, who didn’t hit his first green in regulation until he parred the fourth hole.
“I felt great before the round. That’s just golf. It’s not explainable,” Pope said. “Nerves had nothing to do with it; I just hit bad shots.
“On the fourth tee – well, I said it on the third tee, too – I told myself, ‘let’s just start over and take it one shot at a time,’ ” Pope said.
The 2012 Regions Bank Amateur Series Player of the Year and current points leader did just that, blowing past Foss, who shot 74 and finished second.
Pope, who turns 48 this week, was 5-under on his final 15 holes, finishing with 1-under-par 71.
After his terrible start, he birdied Nos. 6 and 9 to turn in 2-over-par 38. He shot 3-under 33 on his back nine with birdies on Nos. 12, 13, 16 and 18 to go with a bogey on No. 11.
It was Pope’s third victory of the season and took some of the sting out of last week’s Augusta City Amateur. In defense of his 2012 title at Forest Hills Golf Club, Pope was never a factor after an opening 71. He closed with 74-77 to finish tied for 12th.
“That gave me a little motivation this week,” Pope said. “I didn’t play well – kind of like the start I had today.”
Pope will test his game on the state level this week when he plays in the South Carolina Golf Association’s Amateur Championship, which starts Thursday at Woodcreek in Elgin, S.C.
Joining Pope as a three-time Regions Bank Amateur Series winner this season was fellow North Augustan Tommy Carpenter in the senior division,
Carpenter, 54, shot 72 on Sunday to finish at 3-under 141 and beat Mike Jackson by six shots.
Jackson, who turned 65 last week, shot 73-74. He also finished second to Carpenter in the Goshen Golf Classic this season.
Carpenter is seeking to become the first player to double dip in series history. No one has won both the regular division player of the year and the senior player of the year titles.
Carpenter, who was the regular division’s top player in 2004, picked up 75 Regions points with his victory on Sunday, giving him 275 with three events to go.
Glen Hurt, the defending senior player of the year who tied for third Sunday (75-73), is in second place in the points race with 238.
“That’s kind of a goal,” Carpenter said of adding the senior player of the year to his regular division title. “I’ve been working hard on my game.”
Because of work commitments, Carpenter has played in just four of the seven events this season.
“It puts pressure on me to play well when I do play,” Carpenter said.
He knows he’ll miss the next two events – this week’s Orville White Cup at Midland Valley Country Club and the Jones Creek Classic on Aug. 24-25.
Carpenter is also scheduled to work the weekend of the season-ending Camellia Classic at Belle Meade Country Club.
Hurt normally plays in every event, and Carpenter knows it.
“Glen is right there on me,” Carpenter said. “It’s going to be hard to hold on.”
Carpenter said if he has a chance at the player of year title going into the final tournament, he might find a way to get off work.
“I might surprise him and show up,” Carpenter said of Hurt.