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Harpole wins second consecutive Warren County Golf Championship

Coming down the stretch Sunday at the Warren County Championship, Jeff Harpole was well aware of what was happening directly in front of him. What he didn’t know, and what worried him, were whispers and rumors of the unknown.

While Harpole was struggling through a few holes on the back nine, Todd Boolos was making a charge in the group ahead of him. A seven-shot lead that seemed safe entering the day might suddenly be in jeopardy.

Harpole, though, steadied his nerves. He erased the disastrous effects of two double bogeys in a three-hole span by chipping in for birdie on the 17th hole and making par on No. 18. He held off Boolos by a relatively comfortable three shots and walked away with another title in one of Warren County’s majors.

“I’m just glad it’s over with today. I doubled 14 and then doubled 16, and I was really thinking I was letting Todd in,” Harpole said. “I knew I was still ahead of Parker (Rutherford) and Mike Hurley, but I knew Boolos was 2-under on the front nine and I was letting him in. That chip-in on 17 helped my feelings a lot.”

Harpole won the Warren County Championship for the second consecutive year and added another trophy to his growing collection. It was his fourth straight victory in one of Warren County’s majors — the County Championship and the Vicksburg Country Club Championship. He won the 2019 version of the latter last weekend.

“I love to compete. Whether it’s Sunday with my boys at the (Vicksburg Country Club) or in tournaments like this, I love to play golf and be in it. I love the competitiveness of it, win or lose. I just happen to be playing pretty well,” Harpole said. “The older I get, I guess the smarter I get. I don’t try to do anything that’s outside of my ability. I just hit it out there, go find it and hit it again. And I work on my short game. My short game is good. I feel like if I get it around the green I have a 75 or 80 percent chance of getting it up and down so that takes pressure off the other shots.”

Harpole was the man to beat after shooting a 67 in Saturday’s first round, and he hung on despite a 76 on Sunday for a two-day total of 143. Boolos had Sunday’s low round with an even-par 72, but shot 74 in the first round and couldn’t quite overcome a seven-shot deficit.

Austin Neihaus, Parker Rutherford and Mike Hurley tied for third, at 150 for the tournament.

Boolos and Neihaus were the only golfers in the championship flight to shoot 75 or lower in the final round. Nine of them did it in the first round. Gabe Riveros, who won the first flight, also shot 75 on Sunday.

Rutherford shot 70 on Saturday and entered the final round three shots back of Harpole. He gave up a couple of shots near the turn, whittled the margin back to three when he parred No. 14 and Harpole double bogeyed it, but saw his chances of winning come to an abrupt end on the tiny 15th green.

After chipping to within a foot of the pin, Rutherford began an agonizing sequence that was equal parts tragedy and comedy. His putt hit a tiny divot, lipped out of the hole, and rolled about six feet down the front of the sloped green.

Rutherford then missed the uphill putt and repeated the sequence again, almost from the same spots. He wound up taking five putts — none of them from further than six feet away — and carding an eight on the par-4 hole. The deficit he had worked so hard to get under control immediately swelled back to seven shots.

“The putt was so short I guess I didn’t think to fix it. Didn’t think I needed to. It never even crossed my mind,” Rutherford said of the divot. “I lost focus. That’s all I can say. I should have fixed that pitch mark. It would have had a much better chance of going in if I did. From there, it was hard to gather myself after the next putt. I figured after that I was out of it. Jeff struggled a little bit. It makes me wish I would have really buckled down there, but that’s hindsight.”

Harpole said even in a competitive setting it was a “painful” sequence to watch.

“I feel really bad for Parker. We’ve played a lot in these things together, and when he’s in town we play some together, so I always love playing with him. It was painful to watch,” Harpole said. “Even if we were even right there and I was needing him to screw up, I don’t ever want to see something like that.”

Making the 15th hole disaster even more agonizing for Rutherford was what happened on the par-4 16th. He made birdie while Harpole had his second double bogey in a three-hole span, giving Rutherford back three of the four shots he surrendered moments earlier.

Instead of a potential tie, Harpole still took a five-shot lead onto the 17th tee and played two masterful holes to close it out. His difficult uphill tee shot on 17 settled right on the fairway and his second shot about a foot off the green. He drilled the 20-foot chip for birdie, both settling him down and effectively closing the door on any challengers.

He then made an easy par on the par-4 18th for the win.

“I didn’t know where I stood, so I was just trying to get that (chip) close. When it came off the club I knew it was on a good line and it rolled up there and fell in. That helped my feelings a lot. Then I knew I just had to par 18,” Harpole said. “Parker asked me when we were coming up 18 if I wanted to know what Todd shot. I told him I really don’t. I’d rather just have a chance to two-putt this and then I’ll find out afterward.”

2019 Warren County Championship scores
At Clear Creek Golf Course
Championship flight

Jeff Harpole………..67-76—143
Todd Boolos…………74-72—146
Austin Neihaus………75-75—150
Parker Rutherford……70-80—150
Mike Hurley…………71-79—150
Pierson Waring………73-78—151
Keith Ehrhardt………72-82—154
Caleb Davis…………75-80—155
Zach Shiers…………74-86—160
Joel Greer………….76-85—161
First flight
Gabe Riveros………..77-75—152
Wilson Palmertree……79-79—158
Trent Gilbertson…….78-81—159
Les Dickerson……….77-83—160
Jake Dornbusch………77-83—160
Hunter Simrall………79-83—162
Hartley Sullivan…….78-86—164
Mike Curtis…………77-88—165
Jim Warren………….79-90—169
Mark White………….78-WD—WD
Second flight
Charles Waring………80-79—159
Kevin Neihaus……….83-83—166
Trey Martin…………82-85—167
Robbie Stabler………82-86—168
Herby Poole…………80-89—169
Ryan Hoben………….84-85—169
Bob Davidson………..84-85—169
Tom Jones…………..82-88—170
Jay Prince………….84-86—170
John Duett………….84-91—175
Brad Hasty………….84-99—183
Third flight
Joshua Larson……….87-82—169
Tim Rogers………….86-86—172
Wayne Hilton………..89-85—174
Vlad Rowell…………87-87—174
Dustin Shamblee……..89-89—178
Matt Ledbetter………89-91—180
Robert Carroll………91-89—180
Chase Tucker………..93-88—181
Karen Carroll……….89-94—183
Clinton Jones……….100-99—199
Casey Stubbs………..103-107—210

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 sports reporters in the paper's 137-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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