By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
In the end, Darrin Grove wouldn’t have changed a thing.
And the fourth seed in the Piqua Country Club President’s Cup — along with 11th seed Chris Francis — couldn’t have provided much more drama for their championship match before Grove held on for a 1-up victory and added his named to the board of winners.
“It feels great,” Grove said. “I have always wanted to do well in this tournament.”
Grove came to the 18th hole 1-up, needing to halve the hole to claim the title.
Things got interesting when Grove went left off the tee and was blocked out from the green on the 400-yard par-4 18th hole.
Francis found the fairway and hit his approach 15-feet above the hole.
Grove attempted to pitch out to the fairway, but only moved the ball about 10 yards — but far enough to have a shot.
“Actually, I was trying to get it out to the fairway — it got caught up in the rough,” Grove said with a smile.
He hit a 52-degree wedge five-and-a half feet under the hole.
“I was over left of the pin in the morning round,” Grove said. “I knew I had to be under the hole.”
Francis hit a near perfect birdie putt, but it did not fall.
“I thought his putt was in,” Grove said. “I said, ‘OK, lets go get ready for a playoff.”
That set the stage for Grove’s winning putt.
“He (Darrin Grove) just hit a great shot in there,” Francis said. “Under the hole is where you have to be and that is where he put it.”
Grove calmly rolled the putt into the hole to finish off the win.
“It was about five-and-a half feet,” Grove said. “I put a good stroke on it and it went in. Chris (Francis) played great all day. I knew it was going to be a tough match.”
Francis shot 75 in both 18-hole rounds Sunday, while Grove shot 73 in his opening 18 and 75 in his second 18.
It was a battle all day — Francis showed a brilliant short game, while Grove took advantage of his distance on the par-5s.
Grove had five birdies on the eighth par-5s, going 4-under on those holes.
“His (Darrin Grove’s) distance off the tee was a huge advantage,” Francis said. “I don’t know what he was on the par-5s, but he had to be under par.”
Grove actually had a 3-up lead after 19 holes, but when Francis rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 161-yard par-3 ninth hole, the match was even with nine holes to play.
Consecutive three putts by Grove gave Francis a 1-up lead with four holes to play.
Then, a putt and an errant drive swung the match back Grove’s way.
On the 436-yard par-4 15th hole, Francis topped his second shot and had a 15-foot par putt.
Grove — from the fairway — pulled his wedge shot into the bunker.
He blasted to eight feet and made the putt for par to even the match after Francis’ putt missed.
“That was (huge) to get that sandy,” Grove said. “Especially after the two three putts.”
Francis then found the pond left of the fairway on the 555-yard par-5 16th, while Grove bombed his drive down the fairway.
“I just hit a bad drive there,” Francis said. “Especially after he hit a good drive (there was no recovering).”
Grove won the hole with a par, then hit his 6-iron to about eight feet on the 203-yard par-3 17th.
But, Francis wasn’t done.
After finding the bunker short and right of the green, he blasted to 3-feet and saved his par.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Francis said. “I had to extend (the match) there and I did.”
Grove missed his birdie putt, setting up the dramatic finish.
“Chris (Francis) did that all day,” Grove said. “I wasn’t surprised. He has a great short game.”
Francis couldn’t complain about his tournament.
He upset sixth seed Dave Larger 2-and-1 in the first round and third seed Ben Thieman 1-up in the quarterfinals.
“As a 11th seed, nobody was expecting me to be here,” Francis said. “I am very happy with my tournament.”
After defeating Richard Brownlee 5-and-4 in his opening match, Grove had to get by fifth-seed Tom Christy in the quarterfinals and top seed Andy Arp in the semifinals —with both matches going to the 18th hole.
Grove defeated Christy 1-up and Arp 2-up.
“I birdied 18 on Andy (Arp),” Grove said. “I had to get by Tom (Christy) first. Our half of the bracket was loaded. I feel like I ran the guantlet.”
In other opening round matches, Arp defeated Derek Alexander 5-and-4; Al Rister outlasted Jim Burt in 19 holes; Christy defeated Mike Terry 7-and-6; Daniel Sutherly upset second seed Chad Sherrill 1-up; Jeff Schaffner got by Scott Bradley 2-up; and Thieman handled Terry Toth 5-and-4.
In the other quarterfinals, Arp got past Rister 1-up; and Schaffner bested Sutherly 4-and-2.
In the other semifinal Saturday, Francis defeated Schaffner 4-and-2, setting up a memorable Sunday.
“Chris (Francis) is a great player,” Grove said. “In the end, I made the putt and it all worked out.”
And Grove wouldn’t change a thing.