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Dramatic eagle chip-in adds to Balthrop’s legacy

Jimmy Trodglen/Tnsports360.com

By Jimmy Trodglen

Editor

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Brian Balthrop hasn’t turned 30 yet and is already established as one of the city’s all-time amateur greats.

Balthrop won his 17th CGA title when an eagle chip-in from 62 yards gave him a one-shot win over Graham Sleigh in the 59th edition of the Commanding General’s at Fort Campbell’s Cole Park Sunday.

It was Balthrop’s third Commanding General’s title, his first since winning the coveted tournament in 2014.

A week earlier, Balthrop teamed with Tyler Guy to win the Bud Light Two-Man Scramble. Balthrop sank an eagle putt on the scramble’s last hole for a three-shot win. The only obstacle that’s stopped Balthrop from sweeping the season’s first three tournaments was a prior commitment that prevented him from playing in the Wendy’s Golf Classic in May.

Balthrop couldn’t remember the last time he won a tournament with a dramatic shot on the final hole.

“It is one of those things that happens,” Balthrop said. “I was trying to make birdie because I figured Graham would make birdie and force a playoff. It is one of those things you dream about, so it is pretty cool.”

The playing conditions for the CGs were difficult for the entire field, with multiple weather delays affecting the first round and a steady and strong wind shadowing the first 14 holes in the tournament’s second round.

Balthrop shot a 72-68 – 140, matching Sleigh shot for shot until his eagle chip-in to clinch the title. But the eagle from the  fairway wasn’t Balthrop’s only memorable shot.

On the No. 12, par 5 hole – affectionately known as Cardiac Hill – Balthrop’s tee shot sailed right of the fairway and landed adjacent to a tree line.

Balthrop worked out of trouble with a perfect second shot before dropping a birdie putt.

“I actually had a decent alley to go through, I just wanted to advance it up there because I knew Carson (Holmes) and Graham were in the fairway and that’s a scoring hole,” Balthrop said. “So, I tried to get it up there as far as I could. I hit a good chip and made that 6-footer for birdie. It kept the momentum going.”

With Sunday’s second round starting on the back nine, Balthrop found a groove at No. 17 (No. 8 for Sunday’s round).

“Yesterday (Saturday) I really got it around and got a score in, then I started hitting some quality irons,” Balthrop said. “I was still not making the putts, but I started feeling some momentum.”

And Balthrop needed all the momentum he could find to hold off Sleigh, who shot a 72-69 – 141.

“Graham played so well all day,” Balthrop said. “He’s so steady. I was out there thinking this is like 2011 and 2012 all over again, us battling it out. I always enjoy playing with Graham. He played really good golf out there today.”

Balthrop compensated for the difficult playing conditions by utilizing near-perfect shots with his driver. Balthrop said he was able to keep the ball in front of him, a necessity on Cole Park’s narrow fairways.

Balthrop and Sleigh turned the tournament into a two-man race, with Sleigh forced to watch Balthrop drop his eagle shot from nearly the same distance from the green.

“It was a great shot,” Sleigh said. “After he made it, I knew I had to make it. I hit a pretty good shot following that. It was a hard way to lose, but I had fun battling it out with Brian.”

Jimmy Trodglen, editor, Twitter@Tnsports360