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Knoxville Open wraps Sunday

Kim Felton’s championship-clinching eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole of Sunday’s Nationwide Knoxville Open answered David People’s 10-foot birdie putt that had just tied things up moments before.

However, “that was one of the worst putting strokes I’ve ever looked down on in my life ... it was going all over the place but somehow the ball went in,” said Felton, a 30-year-old Nationwide Tour rookie from Perth, Australia who won his first-ever American tour event. “I sort of got a little lucky.” As for late-match pressure at the final hole, “I was, you know, pretty much shaking,” Felton said. “... I never really got nervous until probably, sort of, the second shot on [No.] 17 when I actually started thinking about, ‘well, I’m one in front, just hold onto that.’”

But while the drama at No. 18 on the final day at Fox Den Country Club in Farragut will be the lasting impression of the 16th Annual Knoxville Open, Felton’s consistency on the back nine Sunday set the stage.

Especially No. 16, where the young Aussie saved par from the bunker by chipping out of the sand from about 100 feet to within 18 inches of the hole. “That’s probably one of the strongest parts of my game,” Felton said of his sand play. “It was nice to get that close and not have to stand over a four- or five-footer and have the nerves going again.”

After a birdie on No. 10 to take the lead for good at 10-under-par, Felton went on to par the next seven holes. He finished 11-under-par (277), one stroke better than Peoples, a 45-year-old PGA Tour regular from Orlando.

Other back nine saves included par-saving putts of five feet on No. 13 and on No. 15.

Felton collected $85,500 and the traditional Nationwide Knoxville Open crystal cup (see Page 1 picture) for his championship effort.

“I’ve only won a few sort of secondary tour events in Australia, and came close in Asia, but nothing like this,” Felton said. “This is awesome, like the monkey’s sort of come off the back a little bit. ...”

As for the newly designed par 72, 4,172-yard Fox Den course, “I hadn’t played here before this week, but, no, it’s a great golf course. Obviously after they’ve redone it and everything, it’s obviously a little young at the moment, but the way they [managed] it this week was absolutely awesome. ... It’s pretty similar to Australia with the hard style of greens. That sort of fitted into my game, I wasn’t playing that well coming into here, and the course brought out some good golf. ...”

Saying he’s “pretty much played the first five years of my professional career in Asia,” Felton added he “loves the way, you know, America is, the lifestyle and the golf courses and everything.”

Felton said he was scoreboard watching — keeping up with Peoples and other final round contenders on the course scoreboards. “I actually like knowing where I am in the tournament,” he said.

Dan Olsen of East Lansing, Mi. and Matthew Goggin of Scottsdale, Ariz. finished tied for third, two strokes behind Felton (279).

Former Farragut native Troy Matteson, tied for the lead at 8-under-par following Saturday’s third round, shot three-over-par Sunday to finish tied for 10th (283).


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