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Playoff eagle does it
Milner sinks 10-foot eagle putt in playoff, topping Webb for Willow Creek Invitational crown

Grant Milner owned Willow Creek Golf Course's par 5s last weekend, picking the perfect time for his first eagle of the weekend.

Milner, a Conference USA All-Freshmen Team selection at the University of Memphis last season, buried a 10-foot eagle putt at No. 1 — the first sudden death playoff hole versus Kory Webb — to win the club's annual Willow Creek Invitational Championship Flight Sunday afternoon, July 3.

Tops among a 40-man field, “Looking back on it, I played the par 5s 10-under par, that was the big thing,” said Milner, 20, a former Webb School of Knoxville golfer who won his second WCI title (2009) shooting 69-70–139/approximately 7,200 yards. “I made 13 birdies and an eagle in 37 holes of golf, and I only finished at 7-under. I made a lot of bogeys.”

On No. 1 (par 5/521 yards) during the first round, “I hit driver, 8-iron and made birdie,” Milner said. “Today I hit driver, 9-iron and made birdie” before repeating that approach in the playoff.

Both golfers easily found the fairway off the tee at the playoff hole, with Milner's tee shot about 20 yards further.

With Milner's 9-iron placing him solidly on the green in two, Webb's second shot found the left side fringe.

“I knew I was probably going to have a chance to win the tournament, that was a big thing for me because I knew Kory was 25, 30 feet away,” Milner said.

After Webb's eagle putt fell short, Milner knew the championship was on his putter. “That was big, to be able to have a putt to win the tournament,” he said. Webb shot 70-69–139 for 36 holes.

About his second shot, “I didn't quite hit it like I wanted to, but Grant hit a great shot,” said Webb, 17, a rising senior at Christian Academy of Knoxville where he finished TSSAA Class A-AA state runner-up in 2009 as a sophomore.

“I had a tap-in birdie and he made an eagle. You can't do anything about that.”

Over the two days, Webb said he “hit the ball really great, but I didn't make enough putts.

“I played really good on the back nine today, shot 32,” Webb added. “I made two eagles on the back nine today, at 10 [par 5/584] and 15 [par 5/564].”

Milner said, “I didn't know Kory was playing as well as he was. He played a great back nine today. I know he turned [following nine holes] at 1-over.

“I though my closest person was Craig [Reasor], in our group, and I knew I was two clear of him,” Milner added. “I knew if I made a birdie coming in it would give me a little distance.”

However, Webb said “a little three-putt on 18” was costly, missing a five-foot par putt at 18 that would have, as it turned out, won the tourney.

On No. 1, Webb had previously birdied it both days in regulation play. “I missed a short eagle putt [on No. 1] earlier today,” he said.

Meanwhile, Milner's double bogey on No. 14 (par 3/208), along with a bogey at 16 (par 4/456), almost proved costly. His four-foot birdie putt at 17 barely caught the lip of the cup before rolling around the top and dropping.

“I played 14 three over for two rounds; 14 is just a tough hole,” Milner said about a hole where a small band of short trees guards an area near the left side of the green. A steep slope is the challenge if you fall short of the green to the right.

“I short-sighted myself both days,” he added. “Yesterday I hit it right; I think that's kinda the reason I hit it left today, because of the shot yesterday.

“I was up against those trees, or kinda those bushes there on 14 and didn't have much of a swing. I was lucky to advance it as far as I did.”

Hitting those trees with his pitch swing, Milner fell way short. The chip for par actually hit the flagstick and came out.

“I thought I hit a pretty good chip there, and it just was a little too hard,” he said. “It came out a little hotter than I thought it would.”

A seven-foot bogey putt missed.

“On 16, I chucked a wedge in the middle of the fairway, just made a bad swing on it,” Milner said. “I birdied 16 yesterday.”

About his birdie putt on 17 (par 4/409), “That was a big putt … fortunately I got that putt to go in,” Milner said. “I pretty much hit a perfect shot to land right on the front part of the green.”

Milner proceeded to sink a short par putt on No. 18 (par 4/462) forcing the playoff.


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