The Georgia PGA’s Match Play Championship concludes this month at historic East Lake Golf Club, with the semifinals and finals scheduled for August 13.
While things went pretty much to form in the top half of the bracket, play in the bottom half was marked by several upsets, with players seeded 22nd and 26th reaching the finals.
Top-seeded Craig Stevens also made it to the semifinals, and will face No. 4 Bill Murchison in one match. The other semifinal will be between No. 22 Donn Perno and No. 26 Sung Back.
A variety of factors eliminated some of the Section’s top players, a few of whom were left out of the tournament when the field filled up prior to the entry deadline. Three-time tournament champion Tim Weinhart, who won the event the last two years, was among those unable to play along with former winner Greg Lee.
No. 2 seed Sonny Skinner was eliminated on a coin flip, while No. 3 David Potts lost in a more conventional method, being upset in the second round. Other top-10 seeds went out early in the tournament, especially in the lower bracket.
The first four rounds of the tournament were played at sites around the state on courses mutually agreed to by the competing players.
Stevens, an instructor at Brookstone CC, went 15 years between his first two Match Play titles, and is looking for a third win 13 years after scoring his second victory. Stevens last won in 2000, defeating Weinhart in the title match at Sea Island GC.
The two met again in the finals last year at the UGA course, with Weinhart reversing the result from 12 years earlier. Stevens also lost in the 2002 finals to Clark Spratlin and made it to the semifinals in ’03 and ’06.
Stevens reached the semis with a 4&3 victory in the quarterfinals over No. 8 Seth McCain of Jennings Mill after getting past Matt Watkins and Billy Jack in his two prior matches.
Stevens was the 2012 Georgia PGA Player of the Year, and has been playing well in both Section and senior events since turning 50 a few years ago, winning one of the Section’s top two senior events every year since 2011 and repeatedly contending in non-senior Georgia PGA championships.
Murchison, an assistant at Towne Lake Hills who has limited status this year on the Web.com Tour, defeated Georgia Golf Center’s Danny Elkins 3&1 to earn his shot at Stevens in the semis.
Elkins, seeded 12th, scored one of the tournament upsets in the third round, knocking out No. 5 seed Brian Dixon of Fox Creek 1-up.
After easily winning his first match 8&6, Murchison had to go 19 holes to get past Justin Jolly of Tunnel Hill GC in the second round. Murchison then drew Currahee Director of Golf Clark Spratlin, who won the tournament three times between 2001 and ’04, and scored an impressive 5&4 victory. Spratlin won the Georgia PGA event at Chicopee Woods earlier this year.
Murchison’s lone Section win came in last year’s Berkeley Hills Championship. He also qualified for the 2012 PGA Championship after a top-10 finish in the PGA Professional National Championship.
This is the first time Murchison has made it past the quarterfinals in the Match Play Championship. He defeated Stevens in 2009 at Callaway Gardens before losing in the quarters, and also lost in the quarters last year.
Perno, the head pro at Peachtree GC, won three of his four matches on either the 17th or 18th hole, including a 2&1 victory in the second round over No. 11 Brian Corn, an assistant at Peachtree. After defeating Scott Curiel in the third round, Perno edged Kyle Owen of Dunwoody CC 1-up in the quarters.
Back, an instructor at Peachtree Golf Center, scored his most impressive in the quarterfinals, defeating No. 15 Winston Trively, the head pro at Crooked Oak in Colquitt, who reached the finals in 2011 and the semifinals last year. Back won three of his four matches decisively, with his closest match a 2-up victory over Wilmington Island Club head pro Patrick Richardson in the third round.
Big Canoe head professional Joseph Finemore ousted the third-seeded Potts on the 19th hole in the second round, but fell 3&2 to Owen, an assistant at Dunwoody CC, in his next match.
Jarred Reneau, Skinner’s scheduled second round opponent was unable to make time for the match, with the winner determined by a coin flip. Reneau then lost to Trively in the third round.