MONROE, La. — Cory Churchman was hopeful at the beginning of the week. How could he not be, after going 4-under on the back nine and a score of 67 and lead after the first day of stroke play? But after posting a 77 in the second round, Churchman found himself in a tie for sixth and an eventual 8th seed.
Perhaps that disappointing second day was the motivation the University of North Texas junior and Abilene native needed to push him through match play. In advancing, he played a couple tough matches, beating Garrett Dolecheck on the 18th hole, 1-up, and in the semis, beat Ross Bell III with the same score to reach the finals.
Sunday’s final round pitted Churchman against 2nd seed Andreas Gjesteby, who cruised through the brackets with relative ease. The Baylor golfer dominated his opponents with wins of 6&4, 4&3, 5&4 and 3&2 to reach the finals against Churchman.
Churchman struggled with his putting early in the final round with three-putts on Nos. 1 and 4, and Gjesteby took advantage to take a 2-up lead. Things quickly changed as Churchman birdied Nos. 5 & 6 to bring the match to all-square.
“The putter has been a struggle for me for the last few years, but I’ve been working really hard on it and practicing hard and it’s nice to see it be the thing that leads me to a championship,” Churchman told the Monroe News Star.
After Gjesteby came back to win the 7th hole with a birdie, Churchman chipped in for birdie on No. 8, a hole that hadn’t been kind to him leading up to the final round.
“No. 8 had kind of ate me up the entire tournament. I played it much better this round,” he said. “I hit a really good shot (into the green) and unfortunately it got caught up in the fringe. I had a really tough shot there and got lucky, basically hit it exactly like I wanted to, and it hit the pin and went in.”
That was when Churchman caught fire, going on to win five of the last eight holes to give him a 5&3 win and the W.E. Cole Cotton States championship.
“It was one of those days where I got in the zone,” Churchman told the News Star. “I was telling one of my buddies after the round that I kind of went blank. I just got in the zone and don’t really remember what happened. That’s like a golfer’s dream when you can get in that zone.”