Snell puts up spirited title defense
Henry Horton assistant golf professional Kevin Snell's defense of his Tennessee PGA National Car Rental Assistant Championship title turned into a three-man shootout Tuesday at Temple Hills Golf Club in Franklin with Nashville's McCabe Field Golf Course's Audie Johnson coming out on top by a slim two strokes.
"That was good competition, Audie is a good player and I knew it was going to be a tough day with this north wind," said Snell. "I had a lot of long putts, I struggled with the putter and the irons, and I wasn't hitting them on line very good. I can't really complain, I shot one-under, but it was not good enough to catch Audie."
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Johnson, who shot a 4-under-par 68 in Monday's first round, took a one stroke lead over Snell (69) into Tuesday's final round, while leading Hillwood Country Club's Joshua Bevell (71) by three shots.
Snell would even the match early on during Tuesday's battle, birdying the 530-yard par-5 second hole, but back-to-back bogeys on the next two holes put Snell two behind Johnson, who was even through the same stretch.
Bevell also turned in a bogey on the fourth hole and was tied with Snell, before the Hillwood standout carded back-to-back birdies on six and seven to move in front of Snell by one shot.
Johnson also rolled in a birdie putt on the seventh hole and both he and Snell made fours on the par-5 eighth hole.
All three pros, who played as a threesome on the day, made par on the ninth hole and when the dust was cleared on the Deercrest front nine, Johnson was in front by two shots over his two playing partners.
Pars were the name of the game on the first two holes on the back nine as Snell missed a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 11th hole after a great recovery when he just missed hitting his tee shot out of bounds left.
Snell would pitch back into the fairway and subsequently wedge his golf ball to within 10 feet, but the putt just missed, leaving him two back of Johnson.
Johnson would birdie the next hole and Snell made a bogey on 13, extending Johnson's lead to four shots.
On the par-4 14th hole, Johnson made a bogey and added another blemish on the next hole when he could not escape a bad lie on the lip of the bunker.
Bevell was even par on the back nine before a bogey on the 14th saw him fall one stroke behind Snell, who was now just two behind the leader, going to the 16th tee.
The trio made pars on the next two holes, setting up one final chance for Snell to catch Johnson with a reachable par 5 ending the Quail Run back nine layout.
Snell crushed a two-iron off the tee and drilled his second shot to within seven feet on the 491-yard hole.
The crafty Johnson, a 15-year head pro, hit short of the green in two and with his patented soft-handed touch, Johnson spun the ball to within 10 feet for birdie.
Snell would drain the eagle putt, but it was not enough as Johnson made his birdie attempt to seal the two-shot win and a nice $2,000 payout.
"Kevin is a tough player and both of those kids hit it a long way, I'm just the old guy in the group," said Johnson. "I putted good today, that was the difference in both rounds, I drove the ball really good and I putted really good. I knew the wind was going to cause some problems today, it moved around a lot, but I played well."
All three players earned a spot in the National Assistants Championship at the PGA Golf Club -Wanamaker Course in Port Saint Lucie, Fla. Oct. 30 to Nov.1.
"The main thing, if you weren't going to win, was to get one of these three spots," said Snell, who finished in a tie for 58th last year in the season-ending tournament in Florida. "I'm looking for a better showing this time, if I can put four good rounds together, maybe we can see if I can do a little better."
Snell would earn $1,250 with his second place finish, while Bevell cashed a $1,000 paycheck for his efforts.
"These guys are all good guys, fun to play with, they're easy to play with, and we all get along very well," said
Johnson. "That's probably the reason why we all played so well."