Bambic ousts Barnes to set up friendly final against Williams

Ron Briggs hits out of a sand trap on Saturday, June 24, 2017 during his semifinal match at Hillandale Golf Course.
Ron Briggs hits out of a sand trap on Saturday, June 24, 2017 during his semifinal match at Hillandale Golf Course.

Desperately trying to hold on to his goal of winning a second Herald-Sun Golf Classic in a row, Melvin Barnes felt a burst of energy finally kick in after the turn on Saturday.

The problem for Barnes was the Bill Bambic still had even better shots to deliver.

Bambic turned a tight Championship Flight semifinal one sided with a torrid three-hole stretch where he took control to post a 4 and 3 win at Hillandale Golf Course.

“Kudos to Bill,” Barnes said. “He played good.”

Leading 1-up after 11 holes, Bambic recorded birdies on the 12th and 13th holes to push his lead to 3-up. His second shot on the par-5 14th hole landed about four inches from the cup and Barnes conceded the putt giving Bambic an eagle for a 4-up lead with four holes to play.

“There’s a stretch of holes on this course where I need to stay patient — seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11,” Bambic said. “I try not to press to hard and make par. And then you’ve got some scoring holes on the back nine. I took advantage where they came about.”

Bambic played conservatively on the par-3 15th hole, scoring a par which was all he needed to tie the hole. Since Barnes failed to birdie it, that gave Bambic the match-play win.

The win dethrones Barnes and boosts Bambic into Sunday’s Championship Flight final against Ronnie Williams.

Already a two-time Herald-Sun Golf Classic champion, Williams dispatched Scott Campbell, 4 and 3, in Saturday’s other Championship Flight semifinal.

That sets up a championship clash between two friends who frequently play rounds of golf together at Hillandale.

“Ronnie’s one of my closest buddies in Durham,” said Bambic, who’s looking for his first Herald-Sun Golf Classic championship. “I think we’ve probably played 35 rounds of golf since the last Herald-Sun. We’ve been partners in some CGA (Carolinas Golf Association) two-ball events and done really well in that.”

Williams is playing tremendous golf. He was the Herald-Sun Golf Classic medalist after two rounds of stroke play last Monday and Tuesday. Once match play began on Thursday, Williams has easily won his three matches by wrapping them all up prior to playing the 16th hole.

“I’m playing really well and making my fair share of putts,” Williams said. “My putting has been really good this week and ball striking has been really good. My overall game is in pretty good shape. These guys I’ve played have played well. I’ve just played a little better.”

In Saturday’s semifinal, Williams jumped ahead quickly with four birdies on the front nine to lead 3-up at the turn. With the big lead, he only needed one more birdie — on the 14th hole — to protect his advantage. He closed it out on the 15th hole and looks forward to matching up with Bambic Sunday morning.

“Bill is solid,” Williams said. “I know he didn’t put his best foot forward in qualifying (stroke play). But match play is totally different and he’s tough to beat. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The President’s Flight will feature a final pairing of teenager Cole Scearce against Wayne Johnson on Sunday.

Scearce, who’ll be a senior at Voyager Academy when school resumes, needed four playoff holes to defeat Blake McSherry in Saturday’s semifinals.

“I’ve driven the ball really well this week,” Scearce said. “I’ve putted well too My driver and putter have been the keys.”

Scearce said he’s also strong mentally because he’s forgetting bad shots quickly to move forward.

“Sometimes I tend to have a bad shot and get down,” Scearce said. “I just have to let it go and take one shot at at time. Whatever happens, happens.”

Johnson defeated Matt Roberts 4 and 3 in the other Presidents Flight semifinal on Saturday.

Sunday’s finals will also determine champions in five other divisions, including two seniors’ flights.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC