Sam Grogg blasts out of a bunker on No. 9.
Mike Crowe capped a successful opening day at the City Cup for his Johnson City Country Club team in style.
Crowe’s team grabbed a sizeable lead on Saturday, and the exclamation point was an unlikely chip-in from the club’s professional at the final hole.
The JCCC team took 37 1/2 out of a possible 60 points on the first day.
Crowe and partner Sam Grogg needed the chip-in birdie to salvage a single point out of a possible three against Blackthorn pro Graham Enloe and his partner, Charles Byrne. Each match had three points at stake, one for the front nine, one for the back nine and one for the overall score.
“It felt great,” Crowe said. “It was a struggle for Sammy and myself today. We sort of got behind the 8-ball right away, but we hung in there.”
After missing the green on the final hole, Crowe was faced with a slick downhill chip. He landed the ball in the fringe, slowing it down just enough. It trickled onto the green, and when it fell into the hole, it brought quite a roar from the gallery assembled on the veranda behind the green.
“That’s the way golf is,” Crowe said. “I got a lucky break on the last hole. That was one in a thousand.
“That was fantastic. I hit a bad second shot there and that was embarrassing in front of the home crowd. But it all worked out in the end.”
Crowe’s Blackthorn counterpart, Enloe, appreciated the shot and the moment.
“In front of his home crowd, that was actually really nice,” Enloe said. “You don’t want to lose, but you have to love that in front of the home crowd. That was cool.”
History has shown us one thing in the City Cup: No lead is safe.
The JCCC team enters today’s final round at Blackthorn with a 15-point lead. The large advantage might come in handy, considering JCCC led by 13 last year only to lose by 10 after the Blackthorn guys made an incredible comeback.
“There’s 60 points out in a day, so you can get some pretty big swings either way,” Enloe said. “These guys are tough at their place. We knew if we could stay close, hopefully we can take advantage at our place.”
Matt Brown and Ken Raff paired to win all three points for JCCC, as did the teams of Richard Lowe and Brian Pardue, David Qin and Phil Walters, and Joe Grant and John Somich. Jim Haire and Lewis Songer provided Blackthorn’s only sweep.
“It’s nice to be in front, but we’re entering a whole different world tomorrow,” Brown said “The course plays longer. The greens are faster. The rough is deeper. They have a home-course advantage.”
Enloe says Blackthorn won’t be set up any differently than normal.
“We’re not doing anything special,” he said. “We want it to be like our guys play every day. We don’t want any surprises. If we show up and it’s not the course they’re used to playing, we don’t really have an advantage.”
One thing is for certain: Crowe will remind his players how they lost such a big lead last year.
“Oh yeah, everybody will be reminded tomorrow morning in our little team meeting,” he said.