Harpole is king of the course

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jeff Harpole readily admits he’s not the most exciting golfer in town. He doesn’t hit the ball long or put up record-breaking scores. He’s simply consistent and steady.

It’s an approach that works. It has made him, for the moment at least, the best golfer in Vicksburg.
Harpole last weekend won the Vicksburg Country Club Championship by eight strokes over runner-up Todd Boolos. That came a week after he also won the Warren County Championship, and made Harpole the first person to win both of Warren County’s local majors in the same year since 1999.

“I think it’s kind of cool to win them both in the same year. Winning one is one thing, but winning both back-to-back is pretty cool. It just kind of happened that I’m playing well right now,” Harpole said.

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Harpole is the fourth man to accomplish the Warren County sweep since the County Championship was started in 1981, and the first this century. Bill Caldwell did it in 1986, Bucky Buckner in 1991, and Barry Hassell in 1999.

He did it with a two-week spurt of outstanding, mistake-free golf that played perfectly to his strengths. In five rounds across the two tournaments at Clear Creek Golf Course and the Vicksburg Country Club, Harpole did not post a score higher than 73.

At the VCC Championship, which was a three-round tournament, he posted scores of 72, 70 and 72 on the par-70 course. Among the 99 combined rounds played by the other 33 people in the tournament, only three were 72 or lower.

“That’s my game. I don’t shoot under par a whole lot, because I’m not a birdie maker. I’m a par golfer who makes a few birdies and a few bogeys. I go as low as 66 out here, and almost never go above 75,” Harpole said. “I don’t hit it real far. I just hit it in the fairway, up there around the green, and get up and down, and make two or three birdies and two or three bogeys.”

Last weekend, while Harpole was steadily marching toward the Vicksburg Country Club title, the other challengers were unable to step up and match him.

Defending VCC champion Jake Dornbusch shot a 69 in the first round, then followed it with an 84 that took him out of contention. He finished third, with a score of 227.

Boolos finished with back-to-back rounds of 73, but shot a 76 in the opening round. Wilson Palmertree pulled within four shots of the lead with a 70 in the second round, but it was sandwiched around rounds of 76 and 84. He tied for fifth place with John Boland at 230.

Fourth-place finisher Charles Waring had a similar arc. He shot a 72 in the second round, and 77 and 80, respectively, in the first and third.

Harpole was complimentary of the other players, but added that he knew early in the final round that the tournament was his to lose.

“I knew after the 70 on Saturday that if I could do this again I was probably going to win. So on Sunday my strategy was to play conservative,” Harpole said. “It turned out I had seven makeable birdie putts on the front nine and only made one of them. By the sixth or seventh hole I knew I was going to have to do something really stupid for anybody to catch me, so I just kept playing the way I’ve been playing and got it done.”

Harpole has one more tournament to complete a full sweep of the county’s summer golf season. He’ll be part of the VCC team when it takes on Clear Creek’s all-stars in the Warren County Cup. The Ryder Cup-style competition is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19 at the country club.

Clear Creek is the defending champion after pulling off an upset last summer, and has won it eight of the past nine years. No matter how well he’s playing, that sort of history had Harpole declining the opportunity to make any guarantees or engage in friendly trash talk ahead of the next tournament.

“I would have thought last year we should have won it and ended up losing, so I’m not going to make any predictions on that,” he said with a laugh. “Everybody on our team is going to have to play well, because I know they’re going to field a good team as well and anything can happen in those match play events. There will be no trash talk.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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