Hassell claims third VCC Championship in four years

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

Barry Hassell grimaces as his putt on No. 17 slips wide during the Vicksburg Country Club Championship on Saturday. Hassell won the event on Sunday.(The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[07/08/02]Paul Loyacono Jr. shot nine strokes better than he did the only time he won the Vicksburg Country Club Men’s Club Championships as an 18-year-old in 1996.

Then again, Barry Hassell wasn’t playing in that tournament.

Hassell, a third-year law student at Ole Miss, shot a 4-over for the tournament and held off a late charge by Loyacono for his third club title in four years. He did not play in the 2000 event.

“The course is getting better and the players are better,” said the 25-year-old Loyacono, who birdied two of his last four holes and could have upped the pressure on 18, but his birdie putt barely missed.

If he had made the birdie, he would have been one stroke back of Hassell, forcing the ex-Vicksburg High standout to sink his 4-foot par putt. Hassell sunk the putt anyway and walked away with the two-stroke win.

“I really wanted him to sink that putt,” Hassell, 25, said of his friend’s birdie chance on No. 18. “We have been friends for a long time.”

Eddie Buckner finished third at nine-over and 61-year-old Jim Lindigrin 33 years older than the oldest player in the championship foursome shot a 78 on Sunday to finish fourth at 16-over.

Hassell entered the tournament’s final day with a 6-stroke lead. He shot a 68 on the par 70 course on Friday, the only player under par for the three-day event. A double bogey on No. 5 and strong play from Buckner sliced the lead to three heading into No. 10.

Buckner shot a 1-under on the front nine, but bogeyed four of his first five holes on the back nine to fall out of contention.

“The back nine killed me all three rounds,” Buckner said. “You can score on the back, but it can cut you up, too.”

Hassell regained control on No. 10 as his tee shot landed within four feet of the cup. He birdied the hole and wasn’t challenged again until late.

“I kind of got lucky on No. 10,” Hassell said. “The wind was blowing in our faces and we were all wondering what club to hit.”

Hassell’s 5-iron shot made for the easy birdie.

Lindigrin birdied No. 11 before falling off the pace over the final seven holes in the 96-degree heat. Lindigrin also suffered when several birdie putts lipped out. This was his second straight third-place finish.

Loyacono birdied No. 15 and hit an amazing birdie on No. 17 the toughest hole on the course to inch closer to Hassell, but a lucky twist of fate on No. 17 kept Hassell in the lead.

With his ball perched on a steep incline and the hole below on a slanted green, Hassell putted, hit the flag stick, then the ball bounced left and rolled off the green. If it had not hit the flag, he said, the ball would have rolled even farther off the green.

“You just can’t make up that much ground on a player as good as Barry,” Lindigrin said. “He’s so steady, you just can’t give him that kind of lead. With a six-shot lead, he is awfully good.”

The top 12 finishers qualified for the October Warren County Cup Championship, which pits VCC’s best against Clear Creek’s best. The Warren County Championships are scheduled for the end of October.