The 67th Herald-Sun Golf Classic nearly turned into the Robinson family championship.
Instead, Jeff Robinson is alone to represent the family in today’s final at Hillandale Golf Course.
Jeff Robinson, of Jacksonville, Fla., topped Durham’s Tim Garrett 2-up in the Championship Flight semifinals on Saturday.
Raleigh’s Jay Robinson, Jeff’s nephew who is one of three other Robinsons who participated in the tournament this week, fell one win short of meeting his uncle on the course. Durham’s Todd Eckstein defeated Jay Robinson 3 and 2 in the other semifinal and will play Jeff Robinson for the tournament championship at 10:30 a.m. today.
“(Todd) hits it so far,” Jay Robinson said. “Jeff just has to play his game. Jeff has been playing well. He doesn’t make many mistakes. It will be a really good match.”
At age 52, Jerry Robinson represents the elder crowd in the final. He won the Herald-Sun Classic in 1981.
That’s 12 years before Eckstein was born.
Eckstein was a standout golfer at the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill — where his father, Tim, coached him — and he just completed his sophomore season of golf at Davidson College.
Eckstein is playing the Herald-Sun Classic’s championship flight for the second year in a row and will shoot for his first title in any flight of the tournament today. The farthest he’d ever advanced, prior to this weekend, was a semifinal appearance in the President’s Flight.
“It’ll be a great match,” he said of today’s final. “If you make it to the weekend you are playing pretty good golf in this tournament.”
Eckstein came out in good form in Saturday’s semifinal match against Jay Robinson. Eckstein won the first two holes to go 2-up and maintained that lead after the front nine. A 25-foot birdie putt earned him the first hole. That was one of two birdies he carded in the round.
Jay Robinson’s errant tee shot on the second hole set him back and allowed Eckstein to win that hole. The two split the third hole with Robinson’s cause hurt when he incurred a penalty stroke as the ball moved while he addressed it in the rough.
“Little things here and there that didn’t go my way,” Jay Robinson said. “That’s all it takes in match play.”
On the back nine, the two split No. 10 with pars and No. 11 when both sank impressive birdie putts.
“I had a stretch where I played pretty solid and I just couldn’t get the putts to go in,” Jay Robinson said. “I finally made one on 11 and he topped me. That’s the hardest hole out here.”
Eckstein took control on the No. 12 hole with help from Jay Robinson, whose tee shot went out of bounds by two feet. Eckstein scored a par to take the hole as Robinson wound up with a bogey.
Both players scrambled on No. 13 to save pars, leaving Eckstein 3-up with five holes to play. Jay Robinson closed the gap with a birdie on No. 14 to draw within two holes.
Eckstein scored a par on No. 15, but Robinson did the same and time ran out on his comeback attempt.
“Just couldn’t quite make the birdies,” Jay Robinson said.
Jeff Robinson was 2-up after the first nine holes only to run into trouble that allowed Garrett to even the match after 12 holes.
Bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes opened the door and Garrett took advantage.
“I kind of got away from my game plan a little bit,” Jeff Robinson said. “Nerves got to me a little bit, to be honest with you.”
Jeff Robinson calmed himself to take control of the match with wins on holes 13 and 14.
Garrett went into the rough on 13, while Jeff Robinson’s birdie on No. 14 won him that hole.
Jeff Robinson’s lead shrunk in half when he bogeyed 15 as Garrett scored par on the hole.
“Tim Garrett, if I had to play a team competition, he’d be the guy I would pick,” Jeff Robinson said. “He is a bullfighter. He is a great player.”
But Jeff Robinson closed out the win by taking the par-5 No. 18 to clinch a spot for the championship opposite Eckstein.
The match against his nephew, Jay, will have to take place by their own doing some other day.
“(Todd) is a very solid player,” Jay Robinson said. “I don’t want to take anything away from him. I would have had to play very well to win the match. But I definitely didn’t play as well as I had been playing earlier in the week.”
Herald-Sun Golf Classic
Today’s Championship Tee Times and Flight Pairings
10:30 — Todd Eckstein vs. Jeff Robinson
10:30 — Kevin Cheek vs. Newt Barringer
10:20 — Macon Tunstall vs. Cecil Lockley
10:20 — Brad Pittman vs. Eddie Ball
10:10 — Richard Wagner vs. Corey Johnson
10:10 — Jasiel de Oliveira vs. Clark Green
10 a.m. — Casey Ellis vs. Cedell Alexander
Saturday’s Semifinal Results
Jeff Robinson d. Tim Garrett 2-up
Todd Eckstein d. Jay Robinson 3&2
Kevin Cheek d. Abe Lewis 2&1
Newt Barringer d. Clay Watkins 9&7
Cecil Lockley d. Destin Barnes 1-up
Macon Tunstall d. Charles Hooker 2&1
Eddie Ball d. John Pittman 5&4
Brad Pittman d. John Synan 1-up (19 holes)
Corey Johnson d. Richard Penny 7&6
Richard Wagner d. Tim King 1-up
Jasiel de Oliveira d. Joe Gucker (forfeit)
Clark Green d. Keith Johnson 1-up
Casey Ellis d. Gary Wheeley 6&5
Cedell Alexander d. Cliff Cox 5&3