Kevin Roberts recalls when he began playing the Spartanburg County Men’s Amateur Championship some 25 years ago, back before he started producing one of the most impressive resumes in the event’s history.
"I was terrible and remember seeing all the other guys holding the trophy up and telling myself I was going to do that one day," Roberts said.
The 43-year-old won the tournament for the third time Sunday with a two-shot victory over former Dorman and current USC-Aiken player George Eubank Jr. Roberts (67-70-71) finished 8 under after beginning the tournament Friday at The Carolina Country Club equaling Hunter Fry for the event’s lowest round and was the only player posting under par each day.
Spartanburg Day School and Presbyterian College alum Carter Davis was third at 4 under, USC Upstate’s Fry was fourth at 3 under and two-time champion (1998-99) Robbie Biershenk was fifth at 1 under.
Roberts joined Tommy Biershenk Sr. (1974, 1981 and 1987), Tommy Biershenk Jr. (1990-91 and 1997) and Barry Black (1978, 1988, 2003) as the only three time winners. They trail only five-time champion Stan Sill for most victories in the men’s tournament.
Roberts missed the 2015 tournament due to shoulder surgery before returning with a record-low win at Woodfin Ridge the next year. He had finished second each of the past three years and his initial win came in 2013 at Country Club of Spartanburg. He’s now finished eighth or better in 11 of his last 12 starts in the county championship.
"It’s just the competition that I enjoy and I don’t like to lose," Roberts said. "For some reason I just get up for this tournament. I also just want to try and set an example for my kids (daughters Sydney and Olivia). They both play golf and I want to get them into it. That’s got a lot to do with it."
Roberts began Sunday’s final round with a three-shot lead over Fry and was four ahead of Eubank before the latter posted birdies at Nos. 5, 7, 9 and 11 to get within one. Roberts had extended his lead early with a birdie at the second before 16 consecutive pars from there with no bogeys.
"My strategy was to keep the hammer down and it just didn’t quite work out that way because my putter didn’t cooperate," Roberts said. "I hit the ball pretty good. I may have missed maybe one or two greens all day, I just didn’t putt real well and that was the same as in my second round."
The lead remained one with Roberts and Eubank each posting pars on Nos. 12-15 before a huge two-shot difference at the 16th snatched away any drama from the last two holes. Eubank hit a chunky 2-iron off the tee before catching a flier out of the rough that went over the green and into the water. He failed to get up-and-down from 15 feet to save bogey and his six on the par-4 dropped him three back.
"I had it going there all day and had gotten within one and missed a couple of putts before 16 that would’ve tied him," Eubank said. "It was devastating being three down with two to go."
Eubank almost applied just a hint of heat on Roberts at the finishing hole when his 40-yard wedge for eagle hit the pin and spun out.
"My mindset was just to keep attacking, keep making birdies and trying to hit greens because I was rolling the ball well with the putter," Eubank said. "Toward the end I just wanted to keep playing my game and hoping he’d maybe make a mistake. He’s a great player, super solid and doesn’t make any mistakes."
Roberts has maintained his lofty perch as among the best to ever do it at the County Amateur and he continues to best some of the area’s top college players who get to put in a lot more time on the range than he does.
"I do not practice and I’m not going to," Roberts said. "I don’t have time but I enjoy playing. It’s always good to say I’m going to work the next day (after winning) and these other guys are probably going to play golf. We stay on the road with the girls and it’s tough this time of year. I would rather do that than play myself. I enjoy going to watch them play golf. It prepares me for the pressure when I play."