Yocum wins Warren County Championship with record-setting performance

Published 10:32 pm Sunday, July 25, 2021

Coming into the final round of the Warren County Golf Championship on Sunday, Luke Yocum had a huge lead and a simple mission.

“I just had to remind myself don’t do anything stupid,” he said.

Other than one brief flub, he didn’t.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Yocum came within one stroke of the course record in Saturday’s first round, then backed it up Sunday with a 69 at Clear Creek Golf Course to complete one of the most dominating performances in the 40-year history of the Warren County Championship.

Yocum finished with a two-day score of 132 to better by one shot the tournament record set by Chase Smith in 2007. Yocum won by 12 shots over Jeff Harpole, and 15 over third-place finisher John Halpin Caldwell.
Smith’s 13-shot margin of victory in 2007 is believed to be the tournament record.

It was the first tournament victory ever for the 18-year-old Yocum, who plays golf at Meridian Community College and typically shoots in the 70s. He said he’s focused on the Warren County Championship for the past couple of weeks and made it a goal to win it.

“It’s just a lot of hard work and determination to prove to myself that I’m good enough to play with these guys,” Yocum said. “I come out here and play with them sometimes and I truly wanted to prove myself this year.”

MORE COVERAGE: Tournament scores, past winners

Yocum shot a 63 on Saturday, which was one shot away from tying Smith’s course record set in the first round of the 2008 Warren County Championship. That performance gave Yocum an eight-shot lead over Harpole heading into the final round, and he immediately gave away a good chunk of it.

Yocum’s second shot of the day went into a tree and never came down. He had to hit another tee shot and wound up with a triple bogey on the first hole.

“The first hole wasn’t that terrible. I had one bad mishap and told myself, ‘Don’t compound one mistake with another mistake. I just kept on moving,” Yocum said. “I knew after a round like I had yesterday I had it in me to make a few birdies here and there. I didn’t have to go super low today. I just had to hang in there and shoot around even par.”

As quickly as he got into trouble, Yocum pulled himself out of it. He made birdies on the next three holes, followed it up with four consecutive pars, and added another birdie on the ninth hole to hold a nine-shot lead at the turn.

“I’m like OK, I’ve got a chance now because instead of eight shots down I’m five shots down. I can fight this out, because I know I’m going to shoot somewhere around par,” said Harpole, who won the County Championship in 2018 and 2019 and finished second in 2020 and 2021. “And then he goes birdie, birdie, birdie on two, three and four, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, maybe not.”

The back nine was largely a victory lap for Yocum. Neither Harpole nor Caldwell were able to put a run together, and Yocum never opened the door for them even if they had.

Yocum made six straight pars on Nos. 10-15, birdies on 16 and 17, and then tapped in a one-foot putt for par on No. 18 to close it out.

“My hands were shaking a lot. I’m glad it was as close as it was,” Yocum said of the final putt. “It was a big sigh of relief. Even having a decent lead, it was a lot of pressure and it was a great feeling sinking the last putt.”

When it was all said and done, Yocum had 14 birdies, one eagle and 19 pars in the 36-hole tournament. He was only over par on two holes — his triple bogey on the first on Sunday and a bogey on the second on Saturday.
During his remarkable Saturday round, Yocum made birdie on six consecutive holes from Nos. 9-14, another birdie on 16, and an eagle on 17.

“I’ve been hitting my irons and wedges pretty close, and I’ve been putting well,” Yocum said. “I played in a tournament last weekend and struggled with my driver, and I knew if I could hit it down the middle it’d give me chances for birdie. That’s what I did yesterday. I struggled a little bit today with it and missed in the right places, and got up and down when I needed to.”

Yocum said the hardest part of Sunday’s round, after the first few holes, was trying not to think about the huge lead he had.

“I was getting on my phone and trying to think about anything other than golf,” he said. “I was trying to take it one hole at a time, don’t get too caught up in the moment, try to do the same thing I was doing on the holes before, and that was what happened.”

In the other flights, Joe Grayson shot 79 on Sunday to earn a three-shot victory in the Warren County Senior Championship. Grayson finished with a two-round total of 152 to beat Hugh Hasty (154), Rodney Lindsey (155), and Jim Darenll (163).

Karen Carroll won the women’s championship, as well as the third flight, with a tournament total of 175. Matt Leadbetter was second in the third flight with a score of 176.

Will Keen won the First Flight with a score of 153, one shot ahead of Charles Waring and two better than Austin Leadbetter.

And in the Second Flight, Joshua Larsen had the day’s low round with a 78 to finish at 158 for the tournament and win the flight. Vlad Rowell was second, at 163, and Keith Ehrhardt third at 164.

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.

email author More by Ernest