THOMSON - Lance Jones was supposed to be motoring to Athens, Ga., Saturday morning to attend the Georgia-South Carolina football game.
Instead, he was making nine birdies at Belle Meade Country Club and sparking South Carolina to the first-day lead in the 16th annual Regions Cup Matches.
Jones, an alternate who didn't find out until 9:45 Friday night that his services were needed, teamed with Lee Harville for a 3-0 four-ball victory over Georgia's John Gibbs III and Fred Sims.
The defending champion South Carolina team needed all those points. After the six four-ball (best-ball) matches, they carry a 9 1/2 -8 1/2 lead into today's final round, which consists of 12 singles matches.
Jones failed to qualify for the Regions Cup team for the first time in 10 years, finishing as third alternate.
But his streak of playing in the matches stayed alive when Rusty Flanders, who won five of a possible six points in the 2002 matches, called executive director Steve Foss Friday night and said he was too sick to play. First-alternate Jim Brisson couldn't play because of a bad back and Foss said it was too late to call second alternate Bob Varn of Orangeburg, S.C.
So the call went out to North Augusta's Jones, whose lone Regions Cup victory came in the Camellia Classic at Belle Meade in 2002.
"I was on the couch and had fallen asleep watching the Braves," Jones said. "I was out of it."
Jones, who had played only one round of golf since the season-concluding W.M. Gregory Classic on Aug. 17, told Foss he'd call him back with his decision. Not only had Jones not been playing regularly, but he and his wife, Jenny Lou, were scheduled to leave at 8:30 Saturday morning for the football game.
"Part of me wanted to play, and part of me didn't want to fool with it," Jones said. "My wife said the streak (of consecutive appearances in the Regions Cup Matches) was more important than the game.
"Then we realized, with the timing, that I could play and still make the game," Jones said. "I called Steve back and said, 'Absolutely, I'll do it.' I'm glad I did now because I had no idea I was going to play like this."
In stroke play, Jones would have shot 7-under-par 65. He had birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 and two bogeys.
"The strange thing is I hadn't done well in the doubles the past four years," said Jones, who is unbeaten in singles. "I'm glad to be out here and glad to make a contribution with a late call like that. Rusty got sick. He's a great player and I didn't want to come out and dog it. Things worked out. I'm pretty excited about it."
"I wish to heck he'd stayed home," Gibbs joked about Jones.
"They brought in a ringer," said Georgia's Mike Jackson, who teamed with Chuck Withers for a 2-1 win over Bobby Gause and Charles Hartline.
In the Regions Cup, each match is worth three points - one for winning the front nine, one for winning the back nine and one for winning the overall match. In the event of ties on the front, back or 18, half-points are awarded each team.
Since there are six four-ball matches and 12 singles matches, twice as many points are on the board today.
South Carolina also led 9 1/2 -8 1/2 after the four-ball matches in 2002, then won 22 of the 36 points in the singles for a 31 1/2 -22 1/2 victory. Palmetto State golfers lead the series 10-4-1.
"I feel pretty good about our team going into the singles," said South Carolina captain Scott Brown, who teamed with Tommy Carpenter for a split with Chip Whitaker and Jay Blackburn.
Thomson Belle Meade CC Today's matches Four-Ball (best ball)
8:30 a.m.-Frank Perry-Tony Kearns (Georgia) vs. Gerard Maxfield-Bud Zipf (South Carolina). 8:40-Mike Jackson-Chuck Withers (Georgia) vs. Bobby Gause-Charles Hartline (South Carolina). 8:50-John Gibbs III-Fred Sims (Georgia) vs. Rusty Flanders-Lee Harville (South Carolina). 9-Tony Williamson-Will Rogers (Georgia) vs. Wes Herlong-Gett Padgett (South Carolina). 9:10-John McCormick-Jeff Murray (Georgia) vs. Jeff Pope-Randy Sapp (South Carolina). 9:20-Chip Whitaker-Jay Blackburn (Georgia) vs. Tommy Carpenter-Scott Brown (South Carolina).
Sunday's matches Singles
8:30 a.m.-Kearns vs. Zipf; Perry vs. Maxfield. 8:40-Withers vs. Hartline; Jackson vs. Gause. 8:50-Sims vs. Padgett; Rogers vs. Herlong. 9-Murray vs. Flanders; McCormick vs. Harville. 9:10-Gibbs III vs. Sapp; Williamson vs. Carpenter. 9:20-Blackburn vs. Pope; Whitaker vs. Brown.
Regions Cup history
S.C. leads series 10-4-1
1988: Ga. def. S.C. 29-16 at Jones Creek
1989: S.C. def. Ga. 24-21 at Woodside
1990: Ga. def. S.C. 30-15 at Augusta CC
1991: S.C. def. Ga. 26-19 at Woodside
1992: S.C. def. Ga. 23-22 at Augusta CC
1993: S.C. def. Ga. 36 1/2 -17 1/2 at MV CC
1994: S.C. tied Ga. 27-27 at West Lake
1995: S.C. def. Ga. 33 1/2 -20 1/2 at MV CC
1996: S.C. def. Ga. 33-21 at Goshen
1997: S.C. def. Ga. 36 1/2 -17 1/2
1998: S.C. def. Ga 35-19 at MV CC
1999: Ga. def. S.C. 31-23 at Belle Meade
2000: S.C. def. Ga. 27 1/2 -26 1/2 at Belle Meade
2001: Ga. def. S.C. 29-25 at Belle Meade
2002: S.C. def. Ga. 31 1/2 -22 1/2 at Belle Mead
Regions Cup standings
Final standings 8 tournaments South Carolina team
Scott Brown 282
Jeff Pope 202
Tommy Carpenter 145
Wes Herlong 98
Randy Sapp 95
Jeff Roberts 95
Gett Padgett 75
Lee Harville 69
Rusty Flanders 64
Chip Whitaker 222
John McCormick 174
Jay Blackburn 120
Jeff Murray 75
Tony Williamson 68
Will Rogers 64
John Gibbs III 58
Fred Sims 54
Seniors (Age 50-and-over) 9 tournaments Georgia team
Mike Jackson 290
Chuck Withers 115
Frank Perry 110
Tony Kearns 100
South Carolina team
Bobby Gause 160
Charles Hartline 86
Gerard Maxfield 60
Bud Zipf 54
City of Augusta Match Play Championship (winner: Chip Whitaker. Senior champion: Bobby Gause).
Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invitational (winner: Scott Brown. Senior champion: Mike Jackson).
Persimmon Hill/North Augusta Exchange Club Classic (winner: Brown. Senior champion: Jackson).
Goshen Golf Classic (winner: Brown. Senior champion: Chuck Withers).
Camellia Classic (winner: Whitaker. Senior champion: Jackson).
Perry Watson Memorial (winner: Gett Padgett. Senior champion: Frank Perry).
Orville White Cup (winner: John McCormick. Senior champion: Gause).
W.M. Gregory Classic (winner: Jeff Pope. Senior champion: Jackson).
Midland Valley Senior Invitational (winner: Spencer Sappington).
Today-Sunday: Regions Cup Matches at Belle Meade Country Club.
Statistics compiled by David Westin. Reach him at (706) 724-0851 after 5 p.m. or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or email@example.com.