ELIZABETHTON — First he talked the talk. Then he walked the walk.
And now Carlson Cox is the champion of the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur golf tournament.
A day after Cox said he was relishing the pressure of leading, he backed it up with a convincing 66 Sunday at Elizabethton Golf Course that allowed him to win by one stroke and equal the 54-hole tournament record of 14 under par.
“It’s awesome,” said Cox, a Church Hill native who plays at the University of Memphis. “It’s a big relief and shock at the same time. This is the No. 1 invitational around here. I wanted to win ever since I was 14.”
Cox’s 202 total equaled the tournament scoring record set by Brad Robinson in 2008.
“I had no idea,” Cox said. “I just wanted that trophy.”
Even though he played some of his best golf, with rounds of 69, 67 and 66, Cox’s victory wasn’t assured until he coaxed in a short par putt on the final hole. That’s because David Talley had just finished putting together the lowest final round in tournament history, a 64 that left him 13 under par, a score that would have won most years.
“I’m excited to play that well,” said Talley, a Tusculum College golfer. “I’m not frustrated to come up short because Carlson played great. I’m glad he played that good. We’re good friends, and I’m not just saying that. I don’t want him to make an 8 or anything like that. Some of the other guys out there, I might not say that.”
Talley wound up with nine birdies and a lone bogey. He finished with a flurry, playing the final 10 holes in six under.
Talley had Adam Shanks caddying for him, which brought with it a touch of irony. Shanks, a three-time winner of this event before he turned professional, had posted the first 64 in the tournament some 10 years ago.
Tyler Lane made a big move with a closing 65 that got him to eight under par and into a tie for third with Joe Meade, who finished with a 67.
ETSU golfer Devin Komline tied for fifth at seven under with Kyle Hayworth. Komline shot 68 and Hayworth had a 67.
After building a one-stroke lead through two rounds, Cox openly said he was looking forward to the challenge of being chased. The pressure never got to him, although he admitted he was a little shaky over the short final putt.
“I felt kind of nervous this morning, but I saw the leaderboard when I came out here today and said ‘You’ve got the lead,’ ” Cox said. “Once I started making birdies ... I wanted to keep playing aggressive. I just didn’t want to play stupid-aggressive. The fact that David was playing well kept me one shot at a time.”
Cox birdied the first hole, made another from off the green on No. 4 and just missed an eagle attempt at the fifth. By the time he walked off the 10th green, he had birdied half of the holes he had played.
His only hiccup came at the par-five 11th, where his first three shots hit trees and he made bogey. That was his only blemish over the final two days.
A 10-foot par putt on the 16th hole allowed Cox to start thinking about his title, although he knew Talley was closing strong.
“I was kind of cruising along and I didn’t want to make any stupid mistakes,” Cox said. “I heard he was 13 under on the tee at 18 so I knew I had to make par.”
Josh Cornett began the day one shot behind Cox and was still in contention until he began to falter on the back nine. He finished with a 74 that left him tied for seventh place with first-round leader Whit Brown, who shot 73.
Hunter Green finished ninth at four under par with a final-round 69, while defending champion Nick York shot 74 and finished 10th at three under.
Mike Poe successfully defended his senior championship with a two-stroke victory over Mike Freels. Poe shot 70, his first sub-par round of the week, to finish at 216, even par. Freels shot 71 was was at 219.
It was the 60th tournament championship of Poe’s amateur career.
Dwight Scott finished third at 219 after a closing 71.
In the 55-over division, Tim Dinwiddie defeated Bob Ross in a playoff for the title. They finished at 224. Dinwiddie closed with a 70 while Ross shot 73.