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No nerves, just good times, as winners crowned

Here’s a look at the winners in the six lower flights from this year’s Herald-Sun Golf Classic.

President’s Flight - Wayne Johnson

If not for his son, Wayne Johnson might not have been in Durham this week. Wayne’s oldest son, Max, wanted to play in the Herald-Sun Golf Classic, so the Johnsons, who live in Hampstead, made the trek to the Bull City. As it turns out, Wayne will head back to the beach with some hardware. Johnson defeated Cole Scearce, 3-2, to win the President’s Flight of The Herald-Sun Golf Classic.

It’s been a family affair for the Johnson clan - Wayne was 15 the first time he played in the event - and his sons were on hand to watch him hold off a tough opponent in Scearce, just a teenager himself.

“I was fortunate to pull it out today,” Johnson said. “Little more consistent with the ball striking today than I had been. Just making good swings, keeping the ball in play and that helps out a lot. A couple of more putts go the other way and Cole is standing here instead of me. Everytime he was on the green I thought the ball was going to go in. That keeps you at attention.”

All week Johnson struggled with holes six, seven and eight. He didn’t play them great in the championship round, but made enough swings to come away as a champion. The most important putt on the backend was on hole No. 12. Scearce pulled a ball on No. 13 that was close, so close that a ruling had to be made if the ball was in or out of bounds. It was out by a half an inch and Johnson won his first championship since 1994.

“I wasn’t even going to play this week,” Johnson said. “Max wanted to play so I said I’ll go play. Just being out here with my boys, my family, it’s different.”

First Flight - Bobby Selmer

Bobby Selmer was relaxed all week. After he won his match on day one, the pressure was off. With each passing day he felt less pressure and that mood carried him right to the First Flight Championship. It was Selmer’s first win after finishing second in five previous trips.

“I just kept getting better everyday,” Selmer said. “When you feel like you can swing the club, it just gets easier. I improved everyday. I had everything working.”

Taking pressure off himself and being runner-up so many times actually played into Selmer’s favor. In his mind if he won, great, if not, you live to play another day, and that mindset was crucial. For the first time, Selmer said, he wasn’t trying to win it all.

“I’ll try to remember that going forward,” Selmer said. “Don’t put the pressure on yourself, just play away. That’s the key.”

Selmer also said he was sore coming into championship Sunday, and somehow that also played to his advantage as he defeated Donald Briggs, 6-5.

“I hurt so badly that it helped me,” Selmer explained. “I couldn’t swing hard at all. My swing was so easy and the ball was going further and further. I felt like if I could just swing the club I would be happy. I was just easy with it and it was just flying down the fairway. From hole one I just felt like I couldn’t be beat.”

Second Flight - John Pittman

John Pittman defeated Ben Thomas, 6-5, to capture the Second Flight Championship Sunday at Hillandale Golf Course.

Pittman was the No. 3 seed in the flight, advancing by defeating Doug Baker on Saturday to set up the showdown with Thomas on Sunday.

Third Flight - Brian Stewart

Brian Stewart defeated Jason Chambers, 6-5, to capture the Third Flight Championship. The key, Stewart said, was consistency.

“I never got in any trouble,” Stewart said. “Every hole was in the fairway. I made my putts and just kind of played contained within my game.”

This was Stewart’s third time participating in the event and his first win. He made it to the second round before, but this was his first trip to the finals. Stewart took advantage when Chambers pulled the ball out of bounds on hole 11. He then hit a nice shot on the green, then made the putt, giving him a boost of confidence to finish out the round.

“It was big,” Stewart said. “I appreciate the moment and took advantage of it. It was nice to play well.”

Stewart admitted he played poorly during the qualifying rounds, but made up for it with a solid performance when it counted the most.

“When today started I hit the ball really well and was pleased,” Stewart said. “For an amateur this is probably my best moment playing golf.”

Senior Championship Flight - Johnny Adams

Winning ugly, Johnny Adams explained, is better than not winning at all.

Adams, who defeated Cecil Lockley in the Senior Championship Flight, admitted he didn’t play his prettiest game, but it was pretty enough to hoist the trophy at the end of the day. Adams finished two up on Lockley on Sunday. Adams won in 2015, but losing in 2016 actually drove him to win it all again this season.

“I came back last year and thought my stuff didn’t stick and they sent me back home,” Adams said. “This year I won the ugly award. I survived. It was not pretty for five straight rounds of golf. I just played a little better each day and today was no different.”

Adams and Lockley did not tie for 12 holes, then tied with pars on 13. Adams then went four up with five to go, then started to hit some bad shots. It was a pep talk from Lockley, of all people, that got him going again.

“He looked at me (after missing a short putt) and said ‘don’t start this mess on me,’” Adams said. “He was right. I had to buckle back in and he played a couple of really good holes and then I settled down.”

Senior President’s Flight - Fred Avila

Fred Avila won his first championship ever at The Herald-Sun Golf Classic, defeating Joe Gucker, 6-4. For Avila, the event was all about having fun on the course. Winning was just the extra icing on the cake.

“This is a big event in this area,” Avila said. “The course was in good condition and I played very good today, that’s the bottom line.”

Avila added, “I practiced a lot for this tournament. I play every afternoon here just to reach this point and prepare for this tournament.”

It was Avila’s first time winning the Senior President’s Flight after finishing as runner-up two years ago.

“I worked hard for this one,” Avila said. “It’s not easy. There are a lot of good players around. My goal before was to come here and make friends. Little by little, first day, second day, third day, I made it to my goal.”

Avila wasn’t nervous because he was just there for fun. He said he wasn’t trying to win the trophy, but he prepared just to be one of the guys to make it to the final day. Turns out, all the hard work paid off.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV

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