The semifinals of the Georgia PGA Match Play Championship will pit a pair of former champions against two players who are competing in the event for just the second time.
Sonny Skinner and David Potts are both past champions of the event, although neither has won during the current format. Both won the tournament when it was played over three days at one site, with Skinner taking the title at Callaway Gardens in 2006 and Potts winning in 2010 at the UGA course.
Their two opponents will be Justin Martin and Peter Jones, who made early exits in their initial appearances in the event the past two years, with both the victims of tough draws.
The semifinals and finals will be played Sept. 17 at Peachtree GC, the fifth straight year the club has hosted the final two rounds. The two semifinal matches will be played in the morning, with the two winners meeting for the championship after a short break for lunch.
Skinner will play Martin in one semifinal match, with Potts and Jones playing in the other semifinal. The matches will have a significant bearing on the Georgia PGA Player of the Year points race, with Skinner currently second and Jones third. Both can overtake points leader Paul Claxton with a victory.
Of the four players, Jones had the toughest quarterfinal match, defeating Bill Murchison of Towne Lake Hills 1-up. Jones, the head pro at Cherokee Town & CC, is the tournament’s sixth seed with Murchison seeded 19th. Jones won several tight matches to reach the semifinals, getting past Ryan Joyce of Hawks Ridge 1-up in the first round and 11th seeded Chris Cartwright of West Pines 2&1 in the third round.
Jones played in the Match Play Championship for the first time last year, losing to 2017 Georgia PGA Player of the Year Kyle Owen of Dunwoody CC in the second round. Owen went on to reach the finals of the tournament.
Over the past two years, Jones has been a frequent contender in Georgia PGA events, but is still looking for his first Section title. He played fourth on the points list last year, tying for second in the Georgia PGA Championship at Sea Island GC, placing third in the qualifier for the national club pro championship at Champions Retreat and tying for fourth in the Section event at Berkeley Hills.
Jones has ha d a similar season this year, placing second in the Atlanta Open on his home course, tying for third in the recent Section Championship and tying for fourth in the inaugural Milton Martin Honda Classic at Chattahoochee GC.
Potts, an instructor at Country Club of the South, has not played a heavy Georgia PGA tournament schedule in recent years, but has been a consistent performer in the Match Play since he won in 2010, defeating Skinner in the semifinals and 9-time Georgia PGA Player of the Year Tim Weinhart in the championship match.
Since his 2010 victory, Potts has advanced to the quarterfinals twice and the third round on two other occasions. He lost in the second round last year. Potts, the 15th seed, defeated three former champions to reach the semifinals.
Potts knocked off two-time winner and defending champion Donn Perno of Peachtree GC 4&3 in the second round before getting past three-time champion Weinhart of Heritage Golf Links in 19 holes in the third round. He made it to the semifinals with a 3&2 victory in the quarters over Craig Stevens of Woodmont GC, also a former Match Pay champion. Potts was seeded 18th, Weinhart second and Stevens second, with Potts having the toughest road to the semifinals.
The 2010 Match Play title is one of two for Potts in Georgia PGA points list events. He also won a tournament at Chicopee Woods in 2012.
Martin, the Director of Golf at Atlanta’s First Tee facility, made his only previous appearance in the Match Play Championship in 2016, and lost in the first round to Seth McCain of Jennings Mill, who went on to win the tournament. In his four matches this year, Martin has gone to the 18th hole just once, winning 2-up over Bill Daggett of West Lake in the third round.
In the quarterfinals, Martin defeated former champion Shawn Koch of CC of the South 3&2. Koch, the 17th seed, is the highest seed Martin has faced in the tournament. Martin is seeded eighth.
Martin is 10th in the Georgia PGA 2018 points list. He opened the season by thing for third in the event at Chattahoochee GC, and tied for 10th in the Atlanta Open. Martin also was 10th in the Player of the Year standings last year, placing third in the tournament at Berkeley Hills.
Skinner has a long history of success in the Match Play Championship, but has not won since his 2006 victory in his first year of eligibility following a tour career that included four seasons on the PGA Tour in the 1990s and nine full seasons and several partial seasons on what is now the Web.com Tour.
Since he won in 2006 at Callaway Gardens, Skinner reached the semifinals in 2010 and the quarterfinals in 2007 and ’12 when the event was played at one site.
Since 2013, the format has consisted of four rounds of matches at courses determined by the players, with the semifinals and finals at one site. East Lake hosted the final day of play in 2013, with Peachtree the home course for the semifinals and finals since then.
Skinner came up one match short of making it to Peachtree in 2014, losing in the quarterfinals, but has made it to Peachtree twice since. He reached the semifinals in 2015 and the finals in 2016, losing to McCain after defeating James Mason n the semifinals.
Of the four semifinalists, Skinner has met the least resistance in his first four matches, winning his first three by scores of 7&5, 3&2 and 5&4 before defeating fifth-seeded Todd Ormsby of CC in LaGrange 3&1 in the quarterfinals.
Skinner is seeded fourth and is the highest remaining seed in the tournament. He got past Hank Smith of Frederica GC and Patrick Richardson of Sea Island GC before going to the 17th hole for the first time in the tournament against Ormsby.
Since playing a full Georgia PGA schedule for the first time in 2006, Skinner has consistently been among the top players in the Section, capturing Player of the Year honors the first time he was eligible in ’06 and again in 2014.He has also placed second on three occasions and has finished in the top five on five other times, never placing lower than eighth.
Skinner’s Georgia PGA victories include the Section Championship and Atlanta Open twice each along with his ’06 Match Play title. He is second on the points list this year on the strength of a runner-up finish in the recent Section Championship and a tie for third at Berkeley Hills.
Since turning 50 in 2010, Skinner has won numerous senior events in the Section and has competed in 33 Champions Tour events, including the Senior PGA and Senior U.S. Open this year. He has enjoyed success at the national level in PGA of America events, finishing as runner-up in the 2008 PGA club professional championship at Reynolds Plantation.