Originally created 08/20/00

Course knowledge helps Bissell



The best offense was defense Saturday in the W.M. Gregory Classic golf tournament at North Augusta Country Club.

Not surprisingly, the devilish pin positions, fast greens and high rough didn't slow down Rob Bissell, an Evans golfer whose calling card is accuracy from tee to green.

The 42-year-old banker carefully plotted his way around the course, cranking out 14 pars to go with two birdies and two bogeys to lead the event with an even-par 72.

After birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 and bogeys on Nos. 4 and 7, Bissell parred his final 11 holes.

"I hit fairways and greens and two-putted," said Bissell, who missed only two fairways off the tee.

Bissell, winner of the River Club Open earlier this season, holds a one-shot lead over Mitch Marchman, Rick Swanson and David Clark in what is the 10th and final Regions Cup tournament of the season.

"Some of the pins were in tough spots," Bissell said. "You had to lag your putts. If you got aggressive, you could putt it off the green. You can't attack putts or you're going to three-putt. There's not a flat green out there."

Because North Augusta plays to just 6,448 yards from the back tees, the course's last defense is challenging pin positions. That's how head pro David Usry and superintendent Jamie Wootten protected the course.

"The pins were tough, I'll say that," Usry said.

"Some of them were a little too extreme," said Jay Blackburn, a two-time winner this season who shot 79.

"My feeling is it ought to be tough," said Lance Jones, who shot 74. "This is the last Regions Cup event of the year. Whoever hits it in the fairway and keeps it below the hole should win it."

Local course knowledge helped Bissell lead the way. Though he's a member at The Club at Jones Creek, Bissell knows some of North Augusta's secrets, especially on the greens.

"I've been playing here off and on for 15 years," Bissell said. "I have a lot of good friends who are members and I play occasionally with them and in member-guest tournaments. It's a fun golf course to me because it's not very long. It plays to my strengths."

The lack of familiarity with the course hurt Marchman, who has clinched player of the year honors. Though he had five birdies, the Waynesboro golfer also had four bogeys and a double bogey. The practice round he played last week was the first time he'd seen the course, which opened in 1962.

"I wish I had a little bit more knowledge of the course," Marchman said. "I got above the pin on some of the holes that I shouldn't have."

Marchman is seeking to become the first golfer to win four times in a season on the Regions Cup, which was established in 1988. A victory today would also give him nine career titles, tying him with Michael Carlisle for first place on the all-time victory list.

"They're equally important," Marchman said.

While Marchman has clinched player-of-the-year honors, the final eight-man teams in Georgia and South Carolina will be determined today. Golfers earn Regions Cup points for top 20 finishes. The teams will meet Sept. 23-24 at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson in the Regions Cup Matches.

The seniors, however, have one tournament remaining. The Midland Valley Senior Invitational next week will determine the four-man teams from Georgia and South Carolina that will play in the Regions Cup Matches.

Going into the Gregory Classic, Augusta's Ed Payne led Aiken's Michael Benham by 25 points in the senior division. Neither played well Saturday, with Payne shooting 82 and Benham 78. Danny Williams leads the senior division, which plays from the 6,100-yard white tees, with a 73.

Despite his victory at the River Club, Bissell is not assured a spot on the Regions Cup team. He's in a three-way tie for seventh place in the point-standings with 75 points.

Golfers who could crack the top eight on the Georgia team today with high finishes are Paul Atchison and Neel Boggs. Atchinson, who has 70 points, opened with a 77 Saturday while Boggs, who has 68 points, had a 76.

On the South Carolina side, Swanson is ninth in the standings with 47 points. Alex Hamilton, who is not playing this week, holds down the eighth spot with 40 points.

Scores, tee times

W.M. Gregory Classic

North Augusta CC

6,448 yards, par 72

Championship Flight

Rob Bissell36-36 -- 72

David Clark/36-37 -- 73

Rick Swanson/35-38 -- 73

Mitch Marchman/37-36 -- 73

Chad Blackston/37-37 -- 74

Richard Maddox/37-37 -- 74

Joey Sanders/35-39 -- 74

Lance Jones/38-36 -- 74

Jim Broome/33-41 -- 74

Scott Brown/39-36 -- 75

Lad Wright/37-38 -- 75

Jeff Pope/40-35 -- 75

Rusty Flanders/38-37 -- 75

First Flight

76 -- Neel Boggs (38-38), Jim Brisson (41-35), Jonathan Miller (39-37), Ron Nash (40-36), Casey Thompson (41-35). 77 -- Trey Testino (39-38), Paul Atchison (39-38), Robbie Clark (39-38), Rich Houghton (40-37), Mason McKnight (41-36), Todd Mercer (39-38).

Second Flight

78 -- Mark Ernyei (38-40), Crane Garren III (40-38), Chris Scheuer (38-40). 79 -- Jay Blackburn (41-38), Rick Faulkner (49-39), Todd Fields (41-36), Doug Hathaway (40-39), Rick Howard (39-40). 80 -- Paul Arrington (36-44), Russell Gilliam (38-42), Chuck Moye (41-39), Tony Williamson (38-42). 81 -- Wyman Whitesides (43-38).

Third Flight

82 -- Doug Faulkner (41-41), Brad Owens (43-39). 83 -- Steve Dailey (41-42), Jody Keepers (37-37). 84 -- Ben Barrs (42-42), Bret Howell (44-40), Phil Nunnery (41-43), Michael Peel (41-43), Walter Pendleton (41-43), Jerry Russell (44-40).

Fourth Flight

85 -- Jeff Edeburn (43-42). 86 -- Bill Anderton (44-42), Nick Bradley (41-35), Tom Wright (45-41). 90 -- Howard Horton (49-41), Steve Moody (47-43). 91 -- Martin Salazar (50-41). 95 -- Mike Newman (52-43). 98 -- Greg Benjamin (51-47). DQ -- Bryan Covar (missed tee time).

Seniors

6,100 yards, par 72

Championship A

73 -- Danny Williams (35-38). 75 -- Jack Blackburn (37-38). 76 -- Richard Felder (40-36), Chuck Withers (36-40). 78 -- Michael Benham (39-39), Jerry Flanders (41-37). 79 -- Charles Hartline (38-41). 81 -- Neely Boggs (40-41), Joe Felton (41-40), Steve Nelson (40-41).

Championship B

82 -- Ed Payne (41-41), Sam Testino (43-39), Jim Trotman (40-42), Warren Watkins (40-42). 83 -- James Buchanan (41-42), Phil Chalker (40-43). 84 -- Frank Herlong (41-43). 85 -- Tom Balliet (44-41). 86 -- Ashton Blount (42-44). 87 -- Robert Abernathy (45-42). 89 -- Glenn Stewart (46-43). 91 -- Jim Jones (47-44).

Today's Starting Times

Off No. 1

9 a.m. -- J. Jones, Stewart, Abernathy. 9:08 -- Blount, Wright, Balliet. 9:16 -- Herlong, Chalker, Watkins. 9:24 -- Trotman, Nelson, Felton. 9:32 -- S. Testino, Payne, Buchanan. 9:40 -- Neely Boggs, R. Faulkner, Hartline. 9:48 -- J. Flanders, Benham, Withers. 9:56 -- Felder, Jack Blackburn, Williams. 10:04 -- T. Testino, Mercer, McKnight. 10:12 -- Houghton, Fields, R. Clark. 10:20 -- Atchison, Thompson, Nash. 10:28 -- Miller Brisson, Neel Boggs. 10:36 -- Woodward, Wright, Walters. 10:44 -- Pope, R. Flanders, Brown. 10:52 -- Maddox, L. Jones, Sanders. 11 -- Broome, Blackston, Swanson. 11 -- D. Clark, Marchman, Bissell.

Off No. 10

9 -- Salazar, Benjamin, Newman. 9:08 -- Horton, Moody, Tutt. 9:16 -- Bradley, Anderton, Edeburn. 9:24 -- Russell, Pendleton, Peel. 9:32 -- Nunnery, Howell, Barrs. 9:40 -- Keepers, Whitesides, Gilliam. 9:48 -- Dailey, Owens, D. Faulkner. 9:56 -- Williams, Arrington, Howard. 10:04 -- Moye, Hathaway, Jay Blackburn. 10:12 -- Scheuer, Garren, Ernyi.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.