Originally created 09/15/03

Gibbs sparks Georgia upset

THOMSON - John Gibbs III celebrated his return to the Regions Cup Matches - and his 48th birthday - in style Sunday.

Gibbs, an Augustan who hadn't qualified for the season-ending event since 1995, swept his singles match against Randy Sapp to help Georgia upset South Carolina at Belle Meade Country Club.

Georgia won the match-play event 32-22, but South Carolina still leads the series 10-5-1.

Gibbs won all three points in his match by taking the front nine 2-up, the back nine 1-up and the 18-hole match 3-up.

"This is a big birthday present," Gibbs said, who lost his four-ball match 3-0 on Saturday.

Playing in the ninth of 12 singles matches, Gibbs made a par putt on the 18th hole to win the back nine and clinch the cup for Georgia.

"I knew I needed the putt to win three points, but I didn't know it was to win the matches," Gibbs said. "I'd still be putting if I did."

South Carolina led 9 1/2 -8 1/2 after Saturday's four-ball matches and was favored in the singles. But Georgia had other ideas, as Gibbs, Tony Williamson, Jeff Murray and seniors Mike Jackson and Chuck Withers swept their matches. Georgia won the singles 23 1/2 -12 1/2 .

The only South Carolina singles winners were player of the year Scott Brown, rookie Lee Harville and Gerald Maxfield.

The stars of the 12-man Georgia team for the two days were its four seniors and Murray.

Jackson, Withers and Tony Kearns all had five points out of a possible six. Frank Perry, the other senior, had four points as Georgia won five of the six seniors matches.

In the regular division, Murray was the only Georgian with five points. Harville was the top South Carolina player with five points.

"We had a real advantage with the seniors," said Chip Whitaker, the Georgia captain. "I figured they'd win most of their matches."

The senior matches, which opened the day's play, set the tone for the upset. After the four seniors singles matches, Georgia led 17 1/2 -12 1/2 .

"Those were the big matches," said Brown, the South Carolina captain. "That's a pretty big deficit to come back from."

Jackson, Withers and Kearns were members of the Georgia team that lost 31 1/2 -22 1/2 last year.

"We didn't like the way they beat us last year," said Withers, the 2002 senior player of the year. "That didn't sit well with us. It's all right to lose, but we lost convincingly last year."

Jackson, the 2003 senior player of the year and a four-time winner this season, couldn't forget the way his singles match ended last year.

After Michael Benham beat Jackson 2 1/2 - 1/2 , Benham did a celebration dance on the 18th green that Jackson didn't appreciate. Benham, the senior player of the year from 1998-2001, moved to Ocala, Fla., early this season and didn't qualify for the 2003 Regions Cup Matches.

"It's too bad Michael Benham wasn't here to get some of this butt-kicking," Jackson said.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


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