CHATTANOOGA – Oliver Simonsen wrote his own story book ending Thursday afternoon.
Playing in his hometown … at his college team’s home course … in front of family, friends and coaches … Simonsen went out and won a state title.
Simonsen opened the day with a 3&1 decision over longtime friend Ben Rebne and then came back with a 3&2 win over Gallatin’s Michael Barnard to claim the 18th annual Tennessee Match Play Championship title at Council Fire Golf Club.
“This means a lot,” said Simonsen, who is entering his redshirt sophomore season for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga golf team. “I’ve had a rough stretch over the past year where I couldn’t find my swing. Me and my dad (Henrick) have worked really hard to get my swing to where it is now and it’s really paid off.”
“Unfortunately my dad couldn’t be here. He’s in Scotland right now for the British Senior Open qualifying. But I love my mom and I’m glad she could make it out here to watch. This is special.”
Simonsen, who played his prep golf at nearby Baylor School, jumped out to big early leads in both of his Thursday matches, continuing the momentum he gained by knocking off Tennessee amateur golf legend Tim Jackson in the quarterfinals the day before.
In his Round of 16 matchup against Cookeville’s Lee Maxwell Wednesday morning, Simonsen was 4-down after seven holes and 2-down with two to play.
He won those final two holes and then earned the victory on the 19th. He ended up riding that momentum all the way to the title.
“Honestly, those last three holes, including the playoff hole in that match, just really boosted my confidence,” Simonsen said. “I finished par, eagle, birdie.”
“Ever since then, I’ve just dialed in my irons and that’s helped a lot.”
In his semifinal match Thursday, Simonsen won four of the first six holes against Rebne.
Rebne is also a native of the area, as he attended Heritage High School in Ringgold, Ga., and his father, Richard, is the head professional at Council Fire. He is now a member of the Dalton State golf team. Simonsen and Rebne have been close friends since their junior golf days.
Rebne won holes 7 and 8 to get the margin back to two, but Simonsen answered by claiming two of the next three holes to regain his comfortable margin.
“It was bragging rights,” Simonsen grinned. “Ben is a great player. We made it feel like it was just a regular day, me and him calling each other to play a match just to see who wins.”
A fast start was once again key for Simonsen in the championship match against Barnard as he won the first two holes.
Barnard – a recent Beech High School graduate – made a long birdie putt on No. 7 to pull within 1-down and looked to be in prime position to square things up when Simonsen’s chip on No. 8 sailed 25 feet past the hole.
But Simonsen proceeded to drain the putt to salvage a key halve, and then he went on to win No. 9 to go back to 2-up.
Simonsen took holes 10 and 11 as well, increasing his lead to 4-up, and the match was dormie heading into No. 16.
Barnard reached the finals by scoring an extra-holes win over former Father Ryan and Tusculum College golfer Warren Cheney earlier in the day.
Cheney led the match 1-up after a birdie on No. 16, but he was unable to close things out as Barnard won the finishing hole to force overtime.
Barnard birdied the second extra hole to claim the victory.
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