LUMBERTON — Two weeks ago, Brad Locklear didn’t feel ready to defend his Championship Division title at the Robeson County Golf Championships taking place this weekend at Pinecrest Country Club.
The two-time champion said his game was “really rusty” at that point and he wasn’t as confident as he was when he finished 10-under to win the title by nine strokes in 2017.
It didn’t take long for him to replenish some positivity.
“Right now I feel pretty good,” said Locklear, who also won the title in 2012.
Locklear, 31, finished ahead of runner-up Scott Benton, who finished at 1-under, as well as five-time champion Dyrck Fanning and 2016 champion, Steve Pippin, who finished tied for third at 1-over last year.
Benton will not be in the field this weekend as he recovers from neck surgery.
Locklear says that he will be the man to beat this year.
“I feel like I got a lot of guys are coming for me,” Locklear said.
More than 100 golfers are registered to compete in several divisions. The Super Seniors and Championship division tee off Friday and the tee times are in today’s paper. Everyone else tees off Saturday and those tee times will be in Friday’s newspaper.
Dwight Gane, the head professional at Pinecrest, said the conditions at the golf course will be favorable for Locklear and the rest of the field.
“Our golf course is really good,” Gane said. “I think we will have low scores this week.”
Gane said the greens and fairways at the course are in ideal shape, and the rough isn’t as thick as it has been in the past because of dry weather.
“We have been trying to get our golf course right where it is, to be honest,” Gane said.
Locklear said he is prepared to compete for another trophy regardless of the circumstances.
“I’ve gradually gotten more comfortable with my game and where it’s at,” Locklear said.
He said he isn’t making any major changes to his approach this year in what he estimates to be around his ninth appearance at the championships.
He will play against several past contenders and champions, including nine-time champion Kyle Covington, Fanning, Pippin, Ryan Bass and Ian Locklear.
Others expected to contend include Jeff Wishart, who ran the tournament in the past but turned over those duties to Chris Jackson, the golf course superintendent at Pinecrest.
“I don’t think I’m accustomed to it yet,” Wishart said of his role change.
Greg Powell, a Columbus County resident who is a member at the Fairmont Golf Club, will be in the mix as well. Gane said Powell has recently been posting some of the best scores at the club.
John Haskins, who finished in fifth place after shooting 7-over last year and fell three strokes short of Bass in fourth place, will also be in the field.
Six divisions will be contested at the championship. The super senior and junior divisions will play on Friday and Saturday followed by the regular, ladies and senior divisions on Saturday and Sunday.
The championship division will play Friday through Sunday.
Top finishers will advance to take on Cumberland County golfers in the Highlander Cup.
Nick Lowery defeated LeMark Harris by four strokes in the Regular Division last year. Eddie Williams became a two-time Seniors Division champion after defeating runner-up Larry Lynn Locklear by five strokes, while Knocky Thorndyke finished 2-over to win the Super Seniors Division. Bobbie Ghaffar finished with a two-day combined score of 181 as the sole competitor in the Ladies Division.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.