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Taylor Banks called his two-time defense of the Lancaster Golf Club championship “a dogfight,” and fittingly so because in the end he’s still the links’ top dog.
Banks, the former Buford High School and University of South Carolina Lancaster star golfer, who is now at Francis Marion University in Florence, shot a six under 138 (69-69) to edge ever-battling Dalton Bradley by a shot to capture his third straight LGC crown.
Bradley, the former Lancaster High School all-region golfer and Bruins’ MVP bound for USCL, battled Banks before falling in a match that came down to the final hole.
Bradley, who held a one shot lead after the opening 18 holes in the 36-hole tournament Saturday, finished with a five-under 139 (71-58).
“It was a battle,” said Banks, a plus-one golfer. “It came down to the final hole.”
Banks, who rallied in the opening nine holes to tie Bradley with nine holes to play with a one-under 35 Sunday, was able to build a two-shot lead in the final holes.
Banks snapped the stalemate on holes 13 and 14.
Banks’ par on No. 13 gave him a shot lead after Bradley bogied the hole. Banks followed with a birdie on No. 14, while Bradley had a par.
On No. 15, each had a par, but Banks used a clutch shot to protect his narrow lead down the stretch.
“Taylor had as great an up and down as I’ve seen,” Bradley said. “He was long to the green, but came back with a chip shot which hit the pin and nearly went in the hole.
“That was the key for Taylor, he made clutch shots all day.
“His experience was the difference,” Bradley noted. “He was in full control. He didn’t miss a shot.”
Still the determined Bradley continued to charge.
“I was happy I held it together today and was in contention at the end,” said Bradley, third last year.
Last year, I faded in the final round,” Bradley said. “That’s the most fun I’ve every had playing golf.”
Bradley’s eagle three on No. 16, a par five, sliced the Banks’ lead to a shot after Banks carded a birdie, one of five Sunday, to go with 11 pars and two bogeys.
Then on No. 17, a par four, Banks said it was crucial for him, making a 12-foot birdie putt, while Bradley stroked in a six-footer.
“That 12 footer gave me momentum to finish,” Banks said. “It always helps when you have a shot going to the final hole.”
It made a difference as Banks parred the par four on 18. Bradley, as he did all day, made it close as his second shot sailed to the right of the green, but he rallied with a nifty chip for a short par putt in front of a large gallery gathered at 18 for the exciting finish.
“Taylor deserved it because he earned it,” Bradley said. “There was pressure, but he handled it well.”
“I hit the ball well and stayed out of trouble,” Banks said. “I just tried to be steady and consistent.”
Banks, who posted an eight-shot win last year after winning by a shot in 2010, was one of a host of winners Sunday.
Dan Edwards won the super seniors, 65-over, with a 140 (71-69), with Danny Reynolds second with a 151 (75-76).
Hazel Barnes prevailed in the seniors’ flight with a 157 (80-77) and Dick Lesley was second with a 158 (81-77).
The championship first flight winner was Keith Hudson with a 154 (81-73) and Buford High golfer Garrett Crenshaw was second with a 160 (85-75).
Still, the day belonged to Banks with his third straight title.
“It’s tough to repeat, but to get three straight is really special,” LGC club pro Phil Small said. “There’s a lot of pressure because everybody is shooting at you and you have to handle the pressure. Taylor put together outstanding rounds. They were the identical numbers each day – 35-34 and 35-34.”
Banks, who received a handshake and hug from Bradley just after the win, offered some good words for Bradley, who is following a similar golf path to Banks with a start at USCL.
“If he takes that kinda play to USCL, he’s going to do well,” Banks said.