KINGSPORT — As far as Plan Bs go, Carlson Cox cooked up a pretty good one before he departed for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last week.
Cox penciled himself into the field for the 64th Ridgefields Invitational just in case he got knocked out of the USGA event before its conclusion. When Cox was eliminated in the quarterfinals of match play last Thursday, he made it back to Kingsport just in time for the Invitational on Friday morning.
By Sunday, he was clutching the trophy that slipped from his grasp on the final hole a year ago. Cox fired a 3-under 69 in the final round and overtook second-round leader Cayman Ratliff to score his second Ridgefields Invitational title.
For Cox, the win served two purposes: it helped soothe the painful memory of losing the tournament to Lawrence Largent on the 18th green last year and it put an exclamation point on a busy week that included 140 holes of golf played under the excruciating pressure of tournament play.
The fatigue was apparent on Saturday when Cox shot a 73 to fall two shots behind Ratliff. A little extra sleep proved to be just what the doctor ordered.
“I went to bed extra early and I think I slept until about 10:30 this morning,” Cox said. “I showed up about 20 minutes later than I should have.”
Cox got a wake-up call on the first hole, but overcame a poor shot to salvage par. He buried a pair of 20-foot birdie putts on the next two holes and was off and running from there.
Ratliff couldn’t recapture the magic he found on Saturday when he rode a 5-under 67 to the top of the leaderboard. Cox said he thought the dagger came on the 13th hole.
“I made a 40- or 50-foot putt from the back of the green on 13 and I think that was what got it,” he said.
Ratliff shot a 74 in the final round to finish three shots behind Cox’s total of 208. Bill Harden and Lucas Armstrong each posted totals of 213 to finish in a tie for third.
As it happened, the Senior Championship also turned on the pivotal 13th hole. Bill Argabrite avoided disaster after a bladed bunker shot, getting up and down to save bogey.
From there, he managed to hold off a spirited charge by Mike Poe down the stretch in order to win his third Senior Invitational title by two shots.
“I made a nice up-and-down that ended with about a 5- or 6-foot putt for bogey,” Argabrite said. “To me, making a double bogey, there’s just something very deflating about it.
“Psychologically, he had already made birdie when I was looking at my bogey putt,” Argabrite continued. “So I knew I was looking at losing three shots on that hole if I didn’t make my putt. That was a big turning point.”
Argabrite started the day with an eight-shot lead over Poe after firing an 8-under 64 in the second round. While the cushion was nice, Argabrite admitted that such a large lead can be a double-edged sword.
“There’s only two things that can happen: you either win or you’ve made some really terrible mistakes,” Argabrite said. “If you can’t win with an eight-shot lead, something is wrong.”
The nightmare scenario was becoming a possibility midway through the round when Poe made the turn at 1-under and Argabrite was 3-over.
Argabrite found some momentum on 13 in order to stay ahead, and a bogey by Poe on 17 gave the three-time Senior champ the breathing room he needed.
“I played well, but he had to help me,” Poe said. “He didn’t play as well today as he has been, but of course, it’s hard to play with an eight-shot lead.
“I got within one on 17, but I bogeyed 17 and that was pretty much it.”
Argabrite shot a 75 in the final round and finished with a total of 207. Poe’s final-round 69 left him two shots off the pace.
Tony Green, who shot a blistering 63 on Saturday to get back into contention, shot a 71 on Sunday to finish third, three shots behind Poe.