OLD HICKORY, Tenn. – Lance Simpson said all he did while being quarantined for the COVID-19 pandemic was “golf, golf and golf.”
It obviously helped keep his game in good form for this week’s Tennessee Junior PGA Championship at Old Hickory Country Club.
Simpson, a rising senior at Farragut High School, fired a two-day total of 10-under, 132 to run away with the tournament title by eight strokes over runner-up Riley Grindstaff of Thompson’s Station.
“It feels good to finally get back on the course again, because I can play tournament golf and do what I love,” Simpson said. “It feels really good to win the first tournament of the year. It gives me a lot of motivation for the rest of the season.”
Simpson had just a one-stroke lead as he made the turn to his final nine of the championship Tuesday afternoon. Just in time, though, he caught fire and started to pull away.
The University of Tennessee commitment played his final ten holes in six-under par, with four straight birdies on holes 9-12 and then back-to-back on 17 and 18.
Simpson finished the tournament with 13 birdies in two rounds. He opened with a 3-under, 68 on Monday and followed that up with a 7-under, 64 to finish. Tuesday’s effort broke the tournament record for lowest final 18-hole score by the eventual champion.
Simpson also broke the record for biggest winning margin (8, previous was 6) and tied the tournament mark for lowest total score relative to par (132).
“I was able to capitalize on making birdies when I needed to,” Simpson said.
Grindstaff made three birdies on his final nine to rally for a second-place finish at two-under, 140 (70-70).
Three players tied for third, including Reece Britt of Maryville (72-69), J.J. Zimmer of Humboldt (71-70) and Sheldon McKnight of Ooltewah (69-72).
Jon Wesley Lovelace of Kingsport and Gray Campbell of Humboldt tied for sixth at 142, Bo Maradik of Nashville and Nicklaus Etherton of Friendsville tied for eighth at 143, and Edward Hull of Nashville and Carson Kammann of Knoxville tied for 10th at 144.