BRISTOL, Va. — Taylor Kilgore’s first experience in a match play golf tournament didn’t begin as he had hoped.
But by the end of the day, he was holding the trophy.
Kilgore rallied to beat Dobyns-Bennett High School teammate Zac Fletcher 2&1 Tuesday to claim the the Tri-Cities Junior Amateur Championship at the Virginian.
In a match featuring big swings of momentum and some very entertaining golf, Kilgore had six birdies while Fletcher had four.
“This is really the first time I had experience with match play,” Kilgore said. “It was a really fun battle. I just had to hang in there. He did a really great job of making me fight for it.”
The match play finish was a new twist to a tournament that was begun 17 years ago. The top two finishers in Monday’s stroke play portion of the tournament advanced to the match play finals.
The boys’ 16-18 division had a definite D-B flavor. Not only were the two finalists about to begin their senior years at the school, a teammate — William Karst — caddied for Fletcher while D-B coach Mike Holt caddied for Kilgore.
“It made it interesting,” said Kilgore, who held the first-round lead at the Ridgefields Invitational earlier this month. “I told him walking down the 10th fairway, whoever wins — if you close me out on the 13th hole, whatever — I’ll be happy for you. At least D-B was getting first and second.”
For a while, that appeared to be a possibility as Fletcher won the first hole and was three up early. He was still two ahead after nine holes, even after Kilgore birdied the ninth.
Kilgore then won the first three holes on the back nine and took the lead for the first time when his 35-foot birdie putt from off the green fell at the 12th hole.
“Taylor just had a couple putts fall, and I couldn’t get anything to fall,” Fletcher said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes to change the momentum, something as small as that.”
Kilgore never relinquished the advantage, although Fletcher had a couple of chances coming in. The hole just wouldn’t accept them.
First, after a spectacular approach shot at the 16th hole left him staring at a tying birdie, his short putt caught the lip and spun out.
That was nothing compared to what happened at the 17th, where his par putt hit the pin squarely and rolled away from the cup. Because of coronavirus concerns, the golfers were not allowed to pull flags out and it kept Fletcher’s putt out of the hole.
The match ended seconds later when Kilgore made his par putt to go two holes ahead with just one left to play.
“It was frustrating to have that happen, but at the end of the day, we both play on D-B, so it’s all right,” Fletcher said. “That’s golf for you.”
Johnson City’s John Cheek won the boys’ 13-15 division with a 3-&-2 victory over Alex Broyles of Greeneville.
“It feels good,” said Cheek, who plays at Science Hill High School. “It was fun. I hit it good all day. Match play was different, but it was fun.”
Will Sanders of Piney Flats won the boys’ 10-13 division by beating Grant McCall of Richlands, Va., 4&2.
The girls’ 12-18 division was an all-Abingdon affair, and Katie Hall beat Grace Addison 1-up in a very competitive match.
In the girls’ 12-18 nine-hole division, Lindsey Howlett of Greeneville defeated Aliezah Robinson of Kingsport 3&2.