GALLATIN – As the final putt dropped for Matt King in the 2019 Tennessee Mid-Amateur Championship, he was overcome by emotion and had to fight back the tears.
The Knoxville native needed three extra playoff holes to ultimately edge past defending tournament champion Ryan Terry (Nashville) and Wes Spannuth (Gallatin) for the title at Foxland Links at Tennessee Grasslands on Saturday, Oct. 19.
King finished the three-round event with a 9-under, 207 total that included a stellar opening-round 64.
“I was just thinking about my dad and about my papaw, who passed away six years ago,” King said. “I do it for them. They are the ones that taught me to play golf. I grew up playing baseball and football. My papaw, especially. The emotions just hit me. When I made that last putt, I was just thinking about them. It was just … it was pretty special.”
The 33-year-old King has been playing in state events his entire playing career, but this was his first TGA title.
“I started out when I was 12-year-old playing the Vince Gill Junior Tour,” he remembered. “Then I transitioned into TGA events. It’s been 21 years of playing tournaments all across the state, and this is my first big state event win.”
King opened the tournament with a bogey-free card that featured eight birdies that gave him a three-stroke lead over his nearest competitor. He followed that up with a 1-under, 71 on Friday that kept him in front by three strokes over Terry.
Also playing in the final group was Spannuth, who gained entry into the tournament as the reigning club champion at Foxland Links.
King maintained a two-stroke lead over both his playing parters in the final round after a birdie on No. 13, but things got very interesting coming in.
The leader went on to bogey No. 15, and then on 16 he suffered a double bogey to Spannuth’s par and Terry’s bogey. That left Spannuth with a one-stroke lead with two holes to play.
Terry birdied the short par-five, 17th to move into a tie for the lead at 9-under. Needing to make up a stroke on the final hole, King hit his approach shot to within a couple of feet and birdied to force a three-way playoff.
The trio went back to play 18 again. Spannuth and King both found the left greenside bunker the second time around. King performed a miraculous sand save for par, while Spannuth suffered a bogey and saw his Cinderella story come to an end. Terry also parred to force more extra holes.
Terry and King went to No. 1 and again King got up and down out of the sand to save par and extend the tournament. On the par three, No. 2, Terry hit the green while King was just short and chipping on. King again saved his par while Terry three-putted, making King the new champion.
Ryan Greer (Knoxville) finished fourth at 8-under, 207, while Jeff Reuter (Jackson) rounded out the top five at 5-under, 211. Making up the top ten were Brendon Caballero (212), Tanner Davis (212), Tim Jackson (213), Travis Womble (213), Andrew Duff (215) and Ben Glover (215)