Originally created 05/03/04

Tant ends drought with senior victory



Roger Tant didn't mind playing four matches in two days, or waiting out a 1-hour rain and lightning delay Sunday, before winning the senior division of the City of Augusta Match Play Championship.

It was nothing compared with how long Tant has waited to win another golf tournament.

Tant, 53, ended a 24-year drought by splashing his way to a 3 and 1 victory over Tony Kearns on Sunday in the Regions Cup opener at Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

Former Lakeside golfer Brendan O'Connell outlasted Chad Hossack in the championship flight final, winning 2-up. The match, which went to the final hole, ended when Hossack conceded a 6-foot birdie putt to O'Connell after Hossock missed his 15-foot birdie attempt.

"I wasn't looking at it that much," O'Connell said of Hossack's putt. "I saw him walking after it and I didn't know if it was a good walk or a bad walk."

Tant's last victory came at this same course, in the 1980 Old Milwaukee Open, when he won the championship flight of the match-play event.

"It's been a long time," Tant said. "It feels good to get back. The older you get, it runs through your mind if you're going to win again because tournament golf is nerve-wracking. I don't care if it's the City of Augusta Match Play Championship or the Masters Tournament, it's still nerve-wracking."

Tant wrapped up his match when he hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th hole within 3 feet of the hole. Tant, who was 2-up coming into the hole, was conceded the birdie putt when Kearns missed his birdie chip.

"I enjoyed it; that was fun," Tant said. "I haven't had this much fun in a long time."

At the end of the long day - Tant arrived at the course at 9:30 a.m. and didn't win his final match until after 5:30 p.m. - Tant felt like he'd won two titles, he said.

The "first one" came in the semifinals Sunday morning, when Tant beat Mike Jackson 5 and 4.

The two are regular playing partners at Mount Vintage Plantation and fierce rivals. There was also the fact that Tant had never won a Regions Cup senior division title and Jackson, the 2003 senior player of the year, has six of them.

Tant played his best golf of the week against his good friend. Tant was 6-under through 14 holes when he closed out Jackson.

"I told Tony (Kearns) before the finals that beating Mike was my championship match," Tant said. "I've got bragging rights for the year. You know how Mike talks, how he runs his mouth. If I'd lost, I'd have to put up with that for a year. I didn't want to hear it."

O'Connell, 23, breezed through his semifinal match, beating Evan Moody 8 and 7, then had to face Hossack, the 2000 Arizona State Amateur champion who was making his Regions Cup debut.

Hossack, 28, eagled the first hole to go 1-up, but O'Connell birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 4 for a 2-up lead. He led the rest of the way against Hossack, a Spc-4 at Fort Gordon.

"It feels great to win; I've played well all season in college," said O'Connell, a sophomore at the Augusta campus of Georgia Military College, which will play in the Division III Junior College National Championship tournament in June in Jamestown, N.Y.

"He's a good, solid player," Hossack said of O'Connell.

O'Connell was a member of Lakeside's 1999 state championship team.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3425 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.