By Ken MacLeod
OWASSO – One hole down to former Jenks teammate Preston Crawford with just four holes to play, Brendon Jelley knew that the back-to-back par-5 holes 15 and 16 at The Patriot Golf Club were likely going to decide whether he would soon be hoisting the Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship trophy.
"I knew the par-5s would open some things up for both of us," Jelley said. "I had been playing them well all week. But Preston was capable of making birdie on both as well."
As it turned out, Jelley hit both par-5s in two shots, leading to a pair of conceded birdies, while Crawford hit into trouble on both of his approaches and could not par either hole. The two-hole swing gave Jelley a 1-up lead and he made solid pars on 17 and 18 to keep the advantage.
Jelley, now a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma State, was the player Crawford looked up to during Jelley’s junior and senior years at Jenks while Crawford was a raw talent in the starting lineup as a freshman and sophomore. Now, going in to his senior season , Crawford’s game is advancing rapidly and he stunned the field with his run to the finals.
"This week was a big learning experience and a huge confidence builder," Crawford said. "Playing Brendon, I was relaxed. He’s so good and you learn so much from him every time you play against him. His mental game is so strong."
Jelley needed that mental fortitude to overcome the mistakes he made early in the match when he could have taken firm control, and had to stew on those during a three-hour delay with lightning in the area. The players were even on the ninth hole when called to the clubhouse.
Jelley had taken a two-up lead with a birdie on the first hole and a par on the third. He gave it back with a three-putt par on the short par-5 fourth hole which Crawford birdied, then with a wild drive to the right on the par-4 fifth hole leading to bogey. Both players birdied the par-3 sixth hole, then Jelley missed a short birdie effort on seven.
On the ninth, the wind picked up and thunder began to rumble while the temperature plummeted. Jelley hit his tee shot a bit long and a rock was behind his ball, forcing him to hit his pitch sideways. When play was called, Jelley was looking at a third shot from behind the green while Crawford had pitched from a bunker and had about 18 feet for par.
When play resumed three hours later, Jelley saved his bogey while Crawford three-putted to give Jelley a one-up lead at the turn.
"I was one up but it felt like I was four down," Jelley said. "I had missed some short putts which was really frustrating. So I felt good going into the back nine. I was a little shaky coming in, but I hit enough good shots to get me through."
Jelley had shorter chances for birdies on holes 10, 11 and 12, but none would go down. He then pulled his tee shot left into a ravine on the par-3 13th and lost 14 with a double bogey, giving Crawford, who had driven left into the trees but saved bogey, his first lead of the match.
Jelley responded with one of his best shots of the tournament, a 5-iron from 225 yards to about 5 feet above the hole on 15. With Crawford in deep grass right of the green, it was the shot that changed the momentum of the match.
"That was one of my better shots of the tournament for sure, and a shot I really needed," Jelley said of his approach on 15. "I had lost quite a bit of momentum on 14. It definitely kept my head in the game and got me back in the match."
Crawford, who plays fast and aggressive but has had to battle a tendency to be hard on himself for mistakes, was given a copy of sports psychologist Bob Rotella’s book Golf is Not a Game of Perfect last week by his instructor Michael Boyd, director of golf at Indian Springs Country Club.
"It helped," Crawford said. "It was just telling me to stay positive, stay with every shot and never give up. I’m just going to keep grinding and keep working on my game and on getting better."
"Preston is a great kid and an extremely hard worker," Boyd said. "This is going to help him a lot and reinforce what he’s been working on."
"You hate to beat friends, but he’s come a long ways and I’m really proud of him," Jelley said. "Winning this tournament means a lot to me. It’s one I always look forward to. I had a good feeling coming in and I played really well. The course was great and the OGA does a great job with this event."
Jelley won his semifinal match Wednesday morning 2 up over Eric Kline of Ponca City and the University of Central Oklahoma. Crawford defeated Casey Fernandez of McAlester, a senior on the Southern Miss golf team.
Kline, coming off a week where he made it to the second round of match play in the U.S. Public Links Championship before losing to the eventual champion, led by one after birdies on holes seven and eight, but three-putted the ninth green. Jelley got the lead for good with a birdie on the 13th hole and won 14 with a par. Kline cut it to one with an unlikely birdie after nearly losing his drive on 15, but lost 16 to a birdie. Needing to birdie 18 to tie, he missed a long attempt.
The tournament was sponsored by Justice Golf Car.
Oklahoma Golf Association
State Amateur Championship
July 21-23, 2014
The Patriot Golf Club
Match Play Results
Round — (Semifinal)
Preston Crawford, Tulsa, Okla. def. Casey Fernandez, Mcalester , Oklahoma 2 and 1
Brendon Jelley, Tulsa, Okla. def. Eric Kline, Ponca City, Oklahoma 2 up
Round — (Final)
Brendon Jelley, Tulsa, Okla. def. Preston Crawford, Tulsa, Okla. 1 up