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Clay romps to HCC championship

When Jimmy Clay says he’s playing to the best of his capabilities on the golf course, it’s a discouraging thought to anyone else matched up against him.

That’s exactly what happened at the Halifax Country Club championships last weekend, where Clay bested a solid field of golfers to win his fourth straight title.

Clay carded a 62-67-129 to win by 17 strokes over his closest competitor, Eric Arthur Jr., who finished with a two-day total of 72-74-146.

Jay Burnett carded a 72-75-147, good for third-place in the Championship Flight.

First Flight honors went to Phil Rinker with a 75-73-148, followed by Woody Clay (77-72-149) and Roger Long (75-74-149), with Clay awarded second-place after a match of cards.

Sam Fisher won the Second Flight with an 80-72-152, followed by Grayson Throckmorton with an 80-75-155 and Nick Lumsden with a 79-78-157.

Third Flight honors went to Derek Mason with a 84-77-161, followed by Jeff Barger with a 84-78-162 and Mike Boyd with a 84-84-168, Boyd winning after a match of cards with Sam Lewis, Kevin Fisher and Mike Dunn.

Jack Caldwell (90-82-172) won the Fourth Flight after a playoff with Mike Jenkins (90-82-172), with John Courtney (90-86-176) finishing third.

Mike Hailey, playing in the Championship Flight, carded a 73-75-148 to finish as the Senior Champion, while Coleman Speece carded a 77-73-150 to finish as Super Senior club champion.

Clay’s first-day score of 62 was four strokes off his course record of 58, shot with his own ball on day one of the HCC Member-Member Golf Tournament in 2009.

He held a 10-stroke lead over four golfers after the first day, including Joel Cunningham Jr., Arthur, Tommy Daniel and Burnett, and that lead only got larger as the tourney wound down.

Arthur, who played with a foursome including Clay the second day of the tourney, had a solid two days of golf but admitted everyone was playing for second-place at that point. 

“I put together two good rounds, two good days,” said Arthur, who overcame bogeys on both Saturday and Sunday to finish as the runner-up.

“I played with some really good golfers, so I had a little luck on my side, too.”

“I just made some putts and tried not to make too many big numbers, and I had a double each day but managed not to let that derail me.

“We were playing for second place.  He (Jimmy) had a 10-shot lead, and at the end of the day I recalled what Bobby Jones said when he saw Jack Nicklaus play, ‘He plays a game I’m not familiar with.’”

“You can say that about Jimmy Clay, he plays a game we’re not familiar with,” added Arthur.

“I can’t do the things he does, so I have to play my game, try to avoid the big numbers and try to get up and down and hit the greens.

“I did well with that.”

A couple of things made the fourth straight HCC title special for Clay.

“I worked on my game a little bit, and it clicked this weekend, especially yesterday,” he said.

“Everything was clicking.  The golf course played a little tough, conditions were a little tough, but I played solid the whole weekend.”

On Saturday, Clay eagled No. 4, and he birdied the next two holes.

“I bogeyed nine, and I was four under going to the back nine.

“I said to myself my goal was 66-66, which was four under, so I got to the back and started pounding my driver really hard.

“If I hit it good and straight, everything else comes to me.  It puts me right in my wheelhouse, and I birdied 11, 12, 13 and 14.”

Clay reminded himself when arriving at the golf course on Sunday that he needed to not lose his concentration despite holding a huge lead.

“My objective was to put together two good scores for the weekend, and I did,” he explained.

“I birdied one, three, five and six, and I bogeyed eight, and I got on the backside with a big lead, so I wanted to hit the greens, make the putts and get in.

Clay felt he played at the top of his game on Saturday and was 85 percent on Sunday.

“All together, I would say I played at the top of my game this weekend.

“Out here, it’s all about getting the ball up and down.  I hit my driver well, hit my irons good and putted well.”