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Perseverance earns Crockett, Baird titles in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Tenn. --- It takes perseverance to win any Tennessee Match Play Championship. That’s exactly what Dan Crockett and Tim Baird did as they captured the Senior and Super Senior titles, respectively.

Crockett’s perseverance actually started off the course. Within the last nine months, the Franklin resident dealt with some pretty serious health issues. A successful bout with cancer and rotator cuff surgery kept Crockett off the course until only about three months ago. Since then, he has been determined to get back in the winner’s circle.

“It’s been a while since my last win,” the 2007 Tennessee State Amateur champion said after being handed the John T. Lupton Cup. “Fells good to have some prestigious hardware back in my hands.”

After earning his spot into the match play bracket, Crockett faced some stiff competition right off the bat. His first match pitted him against Tennessee Golf legend Steve Golliher. It was a roller coaster match all the way until the end. Crockett wasn’t enjoying the match after the turn. Down three with six holes to play, Crockett won the next five holes to win 2 & 1 in a dramatic comeback.

Thursday afternoon featured another back-and-forth match with Knoxville’s Bryan Rodgers. Crockett was two up through 12 holes but after walking off the 16th green, was down one after Rodgers rallied to win three holes in the four-hole stretch. A chip-in on 17 by Crockett tied it and eventually forced extra holes. But the match only needed one extra after a birdie on the 19th hole of the match.

Crockett didn’t want to play another 36 holes to capture his second TGA title, so he came out firing on all cylinders in his semifinal match against Tom Paulsen. Crockett was relentless, winning eight of the first nine holes, and eventually closed out the match on the 11th to win 8 & 7 and secure his spot in the finals.

On the other side of the bracket was Tullahoma’s Alan Jones who, throughout the week, proved to be a worthy opponent. He defeated Cleveland’s Joe Markham in the round of 16 by winning the final hole. In the quarterfinals, Jones took on another local, Chattanooga’s Richard Keene, and closed out the match 3 & 2 to earn his spot to play on Friday.

Jones then faced Rising Fawn’s Tom Schreiner in the semifinals. After leading 1 up on the third hole, Jones never tied or trailed Schreiner in the match, but it was always close. Schreiner chipped away at Jones’ lead to get to just one down through 12 holes. Jones birdied the 16th before the pair halved hole 17 to complete the final pairing.

Like he did in his semifinal match, Crockett jumped out to an early lead. Three up at the turn meant he just had to hold off any sort of comeback from Jones the rest of the way. On the 13th hole, both Crockett and Jones missed the green, the former being just off and pin-high while the latter was short and right. Crockett chipped it to gimme range setting Jones up with a medium-length putt to tie it, but his putt lipped out to go four down with five holes left. Jones fought back, winning the next hole to put Crockett just three up with four to play. From there, the two tied the next two holes to secure a win for Crockett.

Friday morning also featured the final match of the Super Senior Championship between Fred McCord and two-time defending champion Tom Baird.

In 2022, Baird needed extra holes to secure his second-straight Super Senior Match Play title so this year he wanted to keep it to a maximum 18 holes. And for good reason. During Thursday's quarterfinals and semifinal matches, the Signal Mountain resident had to play 41 holes to punch his ticket to the finals. 

Baird played a marathon match against Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Rob Long in the quarterfinals. He found himself behind Long three down after 13 holes. Baird won holes 15, 17 and 18 to force the match into extras where the pair went shot for shot on their second play of the back nine that day. On the sixth hole of their playoff (hole 15), Baird sunk a birdie putt to complete the comeback win.

In the semifinal match, Baird took on another Tennessee golf legend Tony Green of Kingsport. It was a back-and-forth match to the bitter end with Baird securing the win on the 17th hole with a birdie.

That set up a Friday morning showdown between him and Collierville’s Fred McCord. Baird used the previous day’s experience to jump out to a big lead on the front nine. Four up at the turn, he was in the driver’s seat of the match and just needed to hold off a McCord comeback. The Collierville native didn’t roll over winning the 11th and 14th holes to cut the lead to two. But from there, Baird matched whatever McCord was able to put up to once again win on the 17th hole and complete the three-peat. He became just the seventh player ever to win three straight years at a single individual event.

For complete results from the 2023 Tennessee Senior and Super Senior Match Play Championships, click here.