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Taylor Banks is going for a three-peat in the annual Lancaster Golf Club championship this weekend.
Banks, who has won back-to-back club crowns, is regarded as the favorite in the 36-hole tournament which opens play Saturday at the renovated LGC.
“Taylor’s coming off a pair of titles and he’s always posting good numbers, so he’s the favorite,” club pro Phil Small said. “Taylor is a good player and I know he will be in the mix.”
A year ago, Banks, the former Buford High School and University of South Carolina Lancaster star golfer who is now at Francis Marion University, used a blazing finish to capture the club title for the second straight season.
Banks, bolstered by a personal-best 64, one shot off the course record of 63 by the late Doc Catoe and the record for the club championship, carded a 135 over 36 holes.
Banks, down four shots entering the final round of the annual LGC’s championship tournament, responded with an eight-under 64 (32-32) to win going away.
Prior to Banks’ final round 64, his personal best at the LGC was a 66.
Skip Small, a club championship tournament veteran, was the runner-up with a solid one-under 143 (70-73).
Dalton Bradley’s five-under 67 on opening day Saturday had him four strokes up on Banks, but Banks soared in the final 18 holes with a blazing eight-under showing of an eagle, eight birdies, seven pars and just to show he was human – two bogies.
Banks, in a closer finish, took the 2010 title with a one-shot victory.
Small noted Bradley, who shot a 144 (67-77) last year, will be a factor along with former club champion Chris Johnson and Bruce Gantt, a former Chester Golf Club champion who is now a member at the Lancaster Golf Club.
Small noted Gantt has a plus-one handicap.
“I’d rate Taylor and those three as the golfers who will be contending for the crown,” Small said. “I think the key is keeping the ball in play and staying out of the rough. With the rain, the rough is pretty thick, so you want to be consistent and avoid the rough which will likely lead to high numbers.
“The course is playing long because of the rain and the ground is a little soft,” he added.
In addition to the club title, champions will also be crowned in the super seniors (65-over) and seniors (50-up).
“We had seven sign up in the super seniors and eight in the seniors,” Small said. “I think the competition will be good.”
He added the club championship field has 12 golfers.
“Overall, I was pleased with the number we had to sign up for the tournament,” Small said. “With the course opening up in late July, I wasn’t sure what we would get.
“From the early response, I think the golfers are excited and pleased with the new greens.”
The $500,000, two-month renovation included the conversion of greens from bentgrass to heartier, more heat tolerant MiniVerde grass, a bermuda hybrid that retains the smooth and quick putting characteristics of bentgrass. Several bunkers were rebuilt and numerous tees were enlarged and laser leveled.