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Major opportunities coming for Kresge

Joe Avento • Updated May 16, 2019 at 6:53 PM

Cliff Kresge has been out of action on the PGA Tour Champions circuit for the past few weeks, but that’s about to change.

Kresge, a Kingsport resident, has sat and watched as the 50-and-over tour competed in a couple of invitationals and the first senior major of the year. He wasn’t high enough on the money list to make those fields.

He will be in the field for the next two majors, the PGA Senior Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. The PGA Senior has a bigger field so there were more spots available based on the money list, and he survived a five-man playoff for a spot in the U.S. Senior Open.

Kresge competed in the U.S. Senior Open qualifier this week at Green Island Country Club in Columbus, Georgia. Seventy-eight players were vying for five spots.

His 68 left him in a tie for third, meaning five players would go out to eliminate two. He made pars on the playoff holes while two amateurs bogeyed to drop out.

Also qualifying in the playoff were Esteban Toledo and Tom Byrum.

“I hit it really solid in the playoff,” Kresge said. “I just let the other guys make mistakes. I felt good about how I was playing.”

Kresge got into position for a playoff with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole of regulation, followed by challenging par putts on the final two holes.

“I’m excited,” Kresge said. “I’m excited about the PGA next week, too.”

The PGA Senior will be played May 23-26 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. The U.S. Senior Open is set for June 27-30 at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

In his rookie year as a senior, Kresge is 78th on the money list, having won $37,802 in six events.

“I just haven’t performed to the level I want to,” he said. “My game is really close. I feel like I should be top 10 every week then I have one bad swing or a silly three-putt.

“The scores that it’s taking to win golf tournaments, it’s certainly feasible for my game. I’m confident I can do those things. If I didn’t think I could, then it would be time to pack it in, but I’m confident I can do those things. I just have to go do it.”

Kresge missed out on the Region Traditions last week. He was on site hoping to make the field in Birmingham, Alabama, but as the fourth alternate, he never got the call.

“It’s frustrating knowing it was a good course for me,” he said. “I could compete on that type of venue.”

AVENTO CUP

They’ll be playing for a new piece of silverware this weekend at the Golf Club of Bristol.

The club’s Member-Member tournament is being played Saturday and Sunday and participants will be competing for the Avento Cup, named in honor of long-time member Joe Avento Sr., who died of cancer last year.

On the cup is one of his most popular golf sayings — and he had a million: “I didn’t get this good laying up.”

NCAA-BOUND

Kingsport’s William Nottingham helped Clemson make the field for the NCAA Championship on Wednesday, firing a one-under-par 71 as the Tigers finished third in the Austin Regional.

The national finals are scheduled for May 24-29 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

ETSU had a nice showing at the Stanford Regional with local golfer Jack Rhea finishing tied for 33rd and Shiso Go tying for 65th. The two sophomores were playing as individuals.

Rhea had rounds of 72, 70 and 72, while Go shot 71, 72 and 79. They were both All-Southern Conference selections.

Another Kingsport golfer, James Beckner, had his collegiate career come to an end at the Myrtle Beach Regional. Playing for Middle Tennessee State, Beckner shot 77, 70 and 75.

Tennessee, coached by former ETSU golfer Brennan Webb, missed out on a national berth by three shots at the Athens Regional.

NCAA WOMEN

Addie Baggarly of Jonesborough helped Florida make the women’s NCAA field. The Gators finished second in the Norman Regional and Baggarly had rounds of 74, 72 and 76.

The women are competing at the same course as the men in the NCAA Championship.

TILLINGHAST INVITE

The Tillinghast Invitational, the season’s first local tournament, is set for June 1-2 at Johnson City Country Club. Entries are being accepted for the popular event that annually attracts around 120 golfers.

GLENROCHIE JUNIOR

The Bill Webster Junior Championships will be played at Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon, Virginia, this weekend. Sixty-one competitors are signed up for the inaugural event honoring the club’s longtime professional.

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