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Golf: Comeback Creek strikes again

Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013 11:02 p.m. CDT

MOUNT MORRIS – If it’s not careful, Timber Creek’s team for the Lincoln Highway Tournament might just develop a reputation.

That’s fine with the players.

For the second time in 4 years, the Dixon golf club claimed the team title Sunday at the oldest amateur golf tournament of its kind in the country.

For the second time in 4 years, it took an impressive comeback to take home that trophy.

“Maybe that’s just the way we have to do it,” said Mitchell Homb, who won medalist honors for the third straight year and fourth time in the last 5 years. “Everybody did their part, and I can’t say enough about the guys on this team. That finish was incredible.”

Seems Timber Creek is making a habit of that.

In 2010, the club trailed Sunset by 15 points after Day 1 in the best-against-bogey format at Oregon Country Club; Homb was the only player in positive numbers. But 27 holes later, the former Dixon Country Club (playing its first LHT as a public course under its new name) had blown away the competition, leaving the rest of the field in its dust and winning by 27 points.

As impressive as that turnaround was, Timber Creek saw that ante and raised it this weekend.

The team was at +24 after Saturday’s opening 27 holes, 13 behind leader Sunset and 11 back of second-place PrairieView. After nine holes Sunday, Timber Creek trailed PrairieView by 12 and Sunset by 8; with just nine holes left, it still trailed the co-leaders by 11 at +53.

But then Timber Creek went crazy (metaphorically speaking, anyway). Over the last nine holes of the 91st Lincoln Highway Tournament, the club’s six players combined for a 14-under-par score in stroke play and an astounding +33 against bogey.

“We knew going into the last nine that we could be right there, if we turned it on,” said Joel Kipping, who won the Fourth Flight. “Then us bottom three guys finished +17, and the Second- and Third-Flight guys combined for +9. At that point, we knew we had a chance to surprise everybody.”

That means five of the six golfers were +5 against bogey or better in their last nine holes, and all six scored at least 3 points toward the team score.

Overall, five of the six players finished +9 or better, with first-year player Luke Hoffman (+12) winning the Fifth Flight and Ryan Harrison (+17) taking second in the Third Flight to add to Kipping’s playoff win (+15) and Homb’s medalist total (+33).

Homb, who will be a junior on the SIU-Edwardsville golf team this coming fall, was happy to share the burden – and the credit – with his teammates. While he was receiving handshakes from other teams’ players for his medalist score of 15-under par 201, he kept craning his neck as he thanked the well-wishers to search for his team members.

All he wanted to do was share some hugs and handshakes with his guys.

“I was in the last group, so I knew exactly where we stood with nine holes left,” Homb said. “I knew that if the guys put it together, we had a chance. I didn’t expect 14 under as a six-some. When I saw that, I just said, ‘Wow.’

“I felt a little pressure coming in, because I knew I wanted to post a good number and help the guys out. I liked that pressure today, but my teammates did, too. They made sure some of the putts I missed weren’t as big a deal in the end.”

While most of the Timber Creek guys are too young yet to worry about gray hairs, if they keep this up, some might pop in prematurely.

But to a (young) man, every single one of them would agree that a few gray hairs are worth it to get that coveted team photo with the first-place trophy.

“I think being behind helps us, actually,” Harrison said. “I think it helps keep us focused and makes us get down to business. It’s worked for us twice now, so hopefully we can keep winning that way.”

“Actually, I don’t even need it to be that way,” Kipping chimed in. “This is always a fun tournament, but it’s even more fun when you win … no matter how you get the job done.”

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