A strong finish this weekend is all Jay Blackburn needs to wrap up his first Regions Cup player-of-the-year title.
Blackburn carries an 80-point lead into this weekend's Orville White Cup, the eighth of nine Regions Cup events. The tournament runs today through Sunday at Midland Valley Country Club in Graniteville, S.C.
In the Regions Cup standings, Blackburn has 255 points, followed by Neel Boggs with 175, Randy Sapp with 144 and Rusty Flanders with 137. Golfers earn points based on top 20 finishes in Regions Cup events.
Since the most points a golfer can earn in a tournament is 75, for a victory, Blackburn needs to be leading by at least 76 points after this weekend to clinch player of the year honors.
If it's still in doubt after the Orville White Cup, Blackburn will play in the season-concluding W.M. Gregory Classic at North Augusta Country Club next weekend.
"I'm playing this week and hopefully, that will be good enough," said Blackburn, the Augusta City Amateur champion. "We'll see how it pans out over the weekend. If I can secure it this week, that will be it for me."
Blackburn is aware that Boggs has finished in the top 10 in six of his seven starts this season, with two second-place finishes.
"Neel is capable of winning this week or next week," Blackburn said. "I need to keep that 80-point lead so I know I have it locked up."
It's hard to beat Blackburn's record for consistency this season. In five starts, he's won once, tied for second twice and tied for third the other two times. His stroke average for 10 rounds is 72.3 with a low round of 69 (two of them) and a high round of 77.
With his Augusta City Amateur victory this season, Blackburn moved into fourth place on the Regions Cup career victory list with five titles. None of them have come at Midland Valley, which plays host to a pair of tournaments each year.
"I'd like to win there more than anything," Blackburn said. "My brother (Brooks) is the assistant pro and I've been friends with Steve (head pro Steve Foss) for 11 or 12 years."
At this time last year, Blackburn was in second place in the Regions Cup standings, 12 points behind Mitch Marchman.
Marchman won the Orville White Cup and the W.M. Gregory Classic while Blackburn finished tied for 16th and tied for 18th, respectively. With that, Marchman won the title going away, totaling a record 455 points. Blackburn finished second with 261 points.
"It would mean a lot to me to be player of the year out there," Blackburn said. "Last year was a little disappointing at the end."
Marchman, the two-time defending player of the year, said late last season that he would be cutting back his schedule this season. He's played only once, finishing tied for sixth in the Camellia Classic, the third event of the season.
"I wish he'd played in a few more tournaments," said Blackburn. "What he did last year (four victories and 455 points) was pretty strong."
Through 7 of 9 tournaments
Jay Blackburn 255
Neel Boggs 175
x-Jason McKenzie 105
Doug Weiss 98
Jimmy Garren Jr. 97
Tripp Kuhlke 91
Richard Maddox 89
Ryan Smith 79
Randy Sapp 144
Rusty Flanders 137
Rick Swanson 88
Lad Wright 80
Bob Varn 75
Jeff Pope 55
Jason Gabriel 41
Ron Schroder 34
x-college golfer; ineligible for Regions Cup Matches.
75-Wren Fowler. 63-Matthew Ricks. 50-Chris Kuhlke, Steve Chapman. 40-Jeff Keck. 39-Jeff Murray. 38-Chip Whitaker. 37-Anthony Scott.
Through 7 of 10 tournaments
Michael Benham 130
Bobby Gause 110
Charles Hartline 83
Wayne Marchant 54
Ed Payne 93
Chuck Withers 60
Mike Jackson 50
J.D. Sessums 50
50-Bob Stringer. 47-Jack Taylor. 31-Jim Swanson. 36-David Joesbury. 30-Jim Brown, Butch Mattison.
Notes: The top eight point getters from Georgia and South Carolina and the top four seniors from each state make their respective Regions Cup teams at the end of the season.
Next tournaments: Today-Sunday: Orville White Cup, Midland Valley Country Club. Aug. 18-19: W.M. Gregory Classic, North Augusta Country Club.
Statistics compiled by David Westin. For questions regarding points or golfer's home state, call Westin at (706) 724-0851 after 5 p.m.
|The Regions Cup points leader after each of the first seven tournaments in the nine-event series this season:|
Savannah Lakes: Bob Varn, 75 points
Golf Capital: Varn, Jason McKenzie, 75 points
Camellia Classic: Jimmy Garren Jr., 90 points
Jones Creek Classic: Jay Blackburn, 130 points
Persimmon Hill: Neel Boggs, 159 points
Augusta City Amateur: Blackburn, 205 points
Perry Watson Memorial: Blackburn, 255 points