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Lee Gerdes and Taylor Jernigan win Honors Championship

If Taylor Jernigan is playing in a golf tournament, his father, Al, can usually be found in tow, carefully observing each swing.

Sometimes, however, if things aren’t going well, he will disappear. It’s not that he makes his son nervous. Rather, Al Jernigan is kidded about being bad luck.

Such was the case early in the final round of the Honors Championship on Sunday at Healy Point Country Club. Armed with a two-stroke lead, Taylor Jernigan and partner Lee Gerdes had gotten off to an unspectacular start.

Taylor Jernigan’s first two tee shots nearly went out of bounds. Then his second shot on the par-5 third hole found a water hazard. On the next hole, he missed a 12-foot birdie putt before finally making a birdie on No. 5. A hole later, however, he couldn’t take advantage of his length and managed merely a par on the par-5 sixth hole.

Finally, he broke through on the par-3 eighth by holing a 35-foot birdie putt. Nevertheless, Al Jernigan decided to head to the clubhouse as his son and Gerdes made the turn for the back nine clinging to a one-stroke advantage.

Taylor Jernigan promptly hit his second shot on the par-5 10th hole to within 15 feet of the cup. When his eagle putt died into the side of the cup, Taylor Jernigan unleashed a fist pump that set the tone for the duo’s final eight holes and effectively closed the door an all challengers.

Gerdes and Taylor Jernigan went on to card a 29 on the back nine en route to a 10-under-par 62 to claim the championship by six strokes at 128.

“Something just started clicking, and I finally got in a good rhythm,” Taylor Jernigan said. “Once we made the turn, I felt like I had a little better tempo.”

Taylor Jernigan also reached the par-5 12th hole in two shots, leading to another birdie. The team of Hal Johnson and Phil Hardin, playing just ahead, bogeyed the 13th hole to drop four strokes behind.

“That didn’t change the game plan,” Gerdes said. “We still tried to stay aggressive. We had to keep going.”

After a massive tee shot at the 14th hole, Taylor Jernigan hit his approach to 4 feet and sank the birdie putt. The ever-steady Gerdes padded the cushion with birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 before Taylor Jernigan’s 18-footer at the final hole found the cup.

Al Jernigan rejoined the group for the final three holes. By then, the leaders were so far ahead that any luck he brought with him didn’t matter.

Cole Tidwell Jr. birdied the 18th hole to cap a final-round 66 and claim second place with partner Thomas Holmes at 134.

“We played OK (Sunday) but (Gerdes and Jernigan) never let off the gas,” Tidwell said. “We weren’t hot enough to catch them.”

Tidwell and Holmes couldn’t even win honors on the tee box. Every time they would scratch out a birdie, Gerdes and Taylor Jernigan would answer with one of their own to squash any momentum.

Johnson and Hardin threatened early after reeling off birdies at Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 7. Consecutive birdies to open the back nine left them within a chip shot of the lead.

Hardin and Johnson shot 67 to finish in third at 136.

“We had a chance on the back side but we didn’t birdie No. 12 and that kind of killed our momentum,” Hardin said. “We didn’t take advantage of that par 5.

“But it was fun to just get back in contention.”

Andy Bacchus and Adam Meade won the Championship B flight with a 145 total.

Justin Elder and Steve Chafin claimed the first flight with a 135 total. Steve Suk and Will Martin won the second flight with a 147 total. Chan Becham and Jody Epps won the third flight with a 134 total. Brooks and Curt Stroud claimed the fourth flight with a 155 total.