The path to glory wasn’t going to be easy in the 2019 Tennessee Four-Ball Championship at Cherokee Country Club.
One round of stroke play. Five rounds of match play. Over the course of four of the hottest days of the year. Against one of the strongest fields in recent tournament history.
When the dust settled Friday afternoon, it was the duo of Will Brooks (Cookeville) and Jack Uselton (Tullahoma) who proved up to the task.
The Tennessee Tech University (Brooks) and Belmont University (Uselton) tandem took the lead over 2016 tournament champions Ryan Greer and Jack Smith of Knoxville on the 8th hole and made it last, closing things out on No. 17 with a 2&1 victory.
“We’ve beat some really good opponents this week,” said Brooks, who will be a junior for the Golden Eagles’ golf team this fall. “Every match was tough for us. It’s special. Ryan and Jack have won this before, so to win this means a lot.”
“I think all of us, especially these last two or three matches, were tired. It’s big. It’s a big confidence booster and it means a lot to us to win this. It’s nice to have our name on this trophy.”
It is the first TGA state title for either Brooks or Uselton. However, Uselton will now have his name on the same trophy as his father, Clay, who won the Tennessee Four-Ball with James McCord in 1999 and 2003.
The elder Uselton and McCord defeated a young Ryan Greer for the title the second time.
“It’s really cool living up to what my dad did and having my name on the same trophy that he does,” said Jack Uselton. “I great up playing with my dad and got into competitive golf because of him. It’s special to do something that he did.”
Clay Uselton tweeted Friday evening that it was “more special to his dad.”
Uselton will be going into his junior season at Belmont. The Tullahoma High School graduate was a member of the Ohio Valley Conference All-Tournament Team as a freshman after sharing medalist honors at the season-ending championship.
Brooks, who starred at Cookeville High School, also earned All-Tournament honors at that same OVC Championships in the spring of 2018. This past season, he had the Golden Eagles’ lowest season scoring average and earned three top-ten finishes.
Uselton and Brooks grew up playing junior golf together and had floated the idea of playing in the Tennessee Four-Ball as teammates on previous occasions before it finally worked out this year.
“Since early high school, we’ve played a lot of golf together,” Uselton said. “We’ve always kind of talked about playing the Four-Ball together and just finally did it this year.”
The championship match featured the young guns against the veterans Smith and Greer, who is a member at Cherokee Country Club.
The latter took an early 1-up lead when Smith drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, but Uselton got it back to all square when he birdied the third hole.
Brooks put his side up for good when he stuck it to three feet on the par three, 8th and proceeded to make the putt.
Uselton was the only player to save par on No. 12 after all four players missed the green, briefly making it a 2-up margin. Greer and Smith got one back on No. 15 but Brooks birdied the very next hole to make it 2-up with two to go. Both teams recorded a par on 17 to bring the match to a close.
“It was a really tough match, and a tough week,” Uselton said. “Just to be out here for so long every day, it was really tough on the mental and physical side.”
Brooks added: “It was just a grind all week. We tried to make sure we made it tough on our opponents.”
Brooks and Uselton advanced through the bracket as the No. 5 seed after shooting an 8-under, 62 in Tuesday’s stroke play qualifying round. The field of 70 teams was cut down to the top 32 teams for match play.
The championship duo defeated Uselton’s Belmont teammates Coleman Jones and Bogle Larue 2&1 in the opening match Wednesday and then returned in the evening to squeak out a 1-up victory over Jimmy Ward and Cole Parrish.
Brooks and Uselton won two more matches on Thursday, first defeating fourth-seeded Michael Barnard and Michael Shears, who play at the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University, respectively.
They then beat another team with Vol ties in the afternoon, winning 2&1 over rising Tennessee freshman Cade Russell and UT commitment Trenton Johnson.