By D.E. Wheeler
Jon McLeod of Fulton and Michael Berg of Belden were both the last-place qualifier in their respective divisions for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Junior Golf Tour Championship.
And after two days of play at Tupelo Country Club Tuesday and Wednesday, McLeod and Berg used that qualifying spot to carry away a championship trophy.
In the 15-17 age division, McLeod's birdie on the par-5 15th hole gave him three-stroke lead, and he then parred the last two holes to win. Berg withstood the front nine charge of Mantachie's Eric Farris to win the 13-14 division.
Also carrying away championship trophies were Baxter Wilder in the 10-12 division and Alexis Rather in the girls division. This was the third year for the junior golf tour in Northeast Mississippi.
"I was scared to death today, and I three-putted the first hole," said McLeod, who trailed B.J. Tucker of Fulton by one stroke through eight holes Wednesday. "After four or five holes I started getting in a groove, and I didn't make worse than a bogey the whole tournament."
After shooting a 75 Tuesday for a one-stroke lead over McClung and Tucker, McLeod parred the ninth hole to move back into the lead. Tucker double bogeyed the ninth to fall one back and McClung bogeyed to fall two behind McLeod.
McClung fell another stroke off the pace with a bogey on the 12th hole, and Tucker fell two behind with a bogey on the 14th hole. On the par-5 15th, both McLeod and Tucker had putts of less than 10 feet for birdie.
Tucker missed his putt and then McLeod made his, and despite a three-putt bogey on 16, McLeod was able to coast in for the win.
"I was thinking on 15 that if he made his and I missed mine, we'd be even," McLeod said. "I was just hoping to be in the top four in the championship."
McLeod shot a 2-over-par 74 Wednesday for a 149 total for the championship. McClung, the regular season tour leader, was second with a 152, and Tucker was third with a 153.
In the 13-14 division, Berg's first-day 78 gave him a three-stroke margin over Oxford's Bob Wilson. But on Wednesday, Farris charged through the front nine in 1-under-par to pull within one stroke of Berg at the turn.
Then on the 15th hole, Farris birdied and Berg double bogeyed to give Farris a three-stroke margin with three holes left. But Farris ran out of steam, finishing double bogey, bogey, double bogey while Berg was only two over on the three finishing holes.
"It was kind of frustrating on the 15th hole, me doubling and him birdying," Berg said. "With three holes to go, I didn't think I could make it up."
Berg managed a 79 the second day for a 157 total, Farris shot a 77 for a 159 and Wilson was third with a 164.
Wilder and Rather took the dramatics out of their division wins with solid rounds each day.
Wilder shot a 36-39 for a 75 total and a five-stroke margin over Chase Champos of Oxford. Rather shot a 53-56 for a 109 total and a 43-stroke margin over Becky Strub of Aberdeen.