Cotton States: Defending champs fall

MONROE, AL . (July 30, 2011) - Friday afternoon's W.E. Cole Cotton States Amateur Invitational quarterfinals finished with almost 20 golf carts of spectators following the action, raising the stakes as the day closed with one of the week's best matches.

The increased attention began as local Bob Cooper, the 1999 champion, tried in vain to fend off Louisiana-Lafayette golfer Andrew Noto and carried through Riley Pumphrey's 19- hole survival of Martin Kim.

Oklahoma's Pumphrey will open this morning's semifinal play against Ole Miss's Billy Brozovich at 8:30 a.m. Noto will tee off with Stephen F. Austin's Mitchell McLeroy 15 minutes later.

"It's fun," Cooper said. "I got a lot of great local support, and I kind of thrive on that, so it was good, good to see the support."

The club members following behind Cooper and Noto were hard to ignore, but the young New Orleans native managed to keep his cool even when the local favorite took holes No. 9 and 10 to draw back even.

"I felt like I was in control early after I went two up even though he got it back square after 10," Noto said. "I felt like I kind of gained control of the match on No. 11 and just tried to stay positive the whole time, even though it was a very pro- Coop crowd."

Noto's father gave Cooper, his college teammate at then-Northeast Louisiana University, some prematch advice to play conservative, but the attempted aid proved futile.

Cooper ran into trouble on the 11th green, and Noto capitalized and rode the momentum to a four-hole victory after No. 16.

"He knocked it two feet on No. 11, and I knocked it about six feet, and it did everything but go in," Cooper said. "It went in and came right out. And that was kind of a heartbreaker ... I zapped a little momentum away on No. 10, then he got it on No. 11, and I never could get it back after that."

The golf cart caravan, with the addition of Cooper, shadowed Kim and Pumphrey from there.

The pair, which had played together during Tuesday's and Wednesday's qualifying rounds, fought back and forth throughout the afternoon before Pumphrey charged back from three back headed to the 14th tee.

"When I got to the par-5 (No. 14) and I made eagle, it gave me a lot of momentum because I'd just lost the hole before that," Pumphrey said. "I had been two up at one point on the front nine, and when we finished the front nine, I was down two. It gave me some more adrenaline I needed to finish the round off."

Kim, an Argentina native, seemed poised for victory when Pumphrey, with the match even, struck his second shot into a bunker shy and to the right of the 18th green.

But Pumphrey lifted the ball nicely into position for a long putt to save par and the match.

"At least it was a good tournament, I guess," Kim said. "He's a good player. He can make any putt, so there's a chance he could do it." Kim sent his tee shot on the playoff hole a good distance, but off to the right, and his second shot bouncing past the green back into the rough and leaving him noticeably frustrated.

He gave himself a chance with his third shot, but the ensuing putt just missed, and he conceded victory to the lower-seeded Pumphrey.

"It was draining," Pumphrey said of the afternoon.

Defending champion Ken Looper of LSU ran into Northern Illinois' Jeff Dick in the morning round.

Dick, fresh off a seven-hole victory Thursday, proved too hot for Looper, sending one of the few remaining Louisianans packing after hole No. 15.

"I still should have at least gotten the match back to even at one point, but my putter was cold and his was hot," Looper said. "But overall I didn't play that well, and he did."

Dick cooled off after lunch, though, and Brozovich won by five holes with four to play to advance.

McLeroy meanwhile edged out Arkansas' Will Pearson by two holes with one remaining.

"That's my hardest match I've ever gone through," McLeroy said. "He was actually three up through eight, and I won No. 9 and No. 10 ... It was huge. My putting was not good. It wasn't as sharp as it's been, and making that putt (on No. 9) before him, I think really put my swag back in me, and I didn't miss a putt after that."

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