Chris Jenkins (L) accepts the trophy for the 10th time (Democrat-Gazette photo)
By Robert Yates for the Democrat-Gazette
LITTLE ROCK, AR (July 4, 2018) - Chris Jenkins wasn't born on the Fourth of July, but his game has made him Mr. Fourth of July.
Particularly when the game is at War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock.
On a warm, windy Wednesday afternoon, Jenkins birdied his final two holes to hold off Rodrigo Rivas and win the 82nd annual Fourth of July Classic for the fifth consecutive year and extend his record to 10 overall.
Jenkins, a Little Rock insurance agent, shot a final-round 1-under 63 to finish the three-day stroke-play event at 8-under 184. Rivas, who was playing in the final group with Jenkins after recently completing his senior season at the University of Central Arkansas, finished second at 4-under 188 following a final-round 65.
While Rivas, 22, was making his Fourth of July debut, Jenkins, 48, grew up playing the Little Rock city courses and said he believes he's played this event -- his favorite tournament -- every year since he was 16.
Quite the home-course advantage.
"I know where all the pins are going to be; I know where I've got to hit every time," Jenkins said. "I've just played it so much that I can hit it bad around here and score fairly well -- just because I've played it so many times. That's a benefit that not everybody's got or an advantage not everybody has."
Jenkins began the final round 7 under and with a two-shot lead over Rivas. The advantage grew to five shots at the turn after Jenkins birdied No. 9. But it shrank to one shot after Jenkins bogeyed No. 10 and double-bogeyed No. 11 and Rivas birdied No. 12 and No. 13.
After both players parred No. 14, Rivas briefly pulled into a tie at 5 under with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 15. Jenkins regained the lead seconds later when he holed a 9-foot left-to-right birdie putt.
"I really wasn't playing very well, but I was scoring OK," Jenkins said. "I kind of lost my mind for about 45 minutes there and Rod made a couple of really good birdies. My karma was fairly poor."
After both players parred No. 16, Jenkins regained the momentum on No. 17 -- a severe downhill 154-yard par 3. Rivas' 9-iron tee shot struck a tree and bounded back approximately 40 yards short and left of the pin. He dropped to 4 under after not getting up and down for par.
"That was the defining moment, I guess, in the round," said Rivas, a native of Santiago, Chile. "I was going to hit first, so obviously it's an advantage if I put it close. I was just trying to put a little bit of pressure on Chris. I was in between clubs, went with a bigger club, gave it a good swing, pulled it a little and the wind caught it. Hit a tree and ended up not in a good spot."
Jenkins, to a pin cut near the left edge, hit a pitching wedge to 3 feet and drained the uphill birdie putt to move to 7 under, three shots clear of Rivas.
"It was just a perfect wedge for me," said Jenkins, who described Wednesday's pin placements as "treacherous." "He had already hit one left, so I was aiming a little bit right and just trying to draw it in. I just hit it perfect."
Jenkins birdied No. 18 after hitting a sand wedge from 83 yards to about 2 feet on the 354-yard straightaway par 4. Jenkins bogeyed the opening hole, but bounced back with birdies at No. 3 and No. 9, when he hit a wedge on the 138-yard, par 3 to inside a foot.
"The way they set the golf course up, it's almost carnival-like," Jenkins said. "But that's the fun of it, that's the challenge. That's why I think people want to come back and play. It's extremely demanding. A great test -- more mental than physical."
Jenkins also won the Fourth of July Classic in 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2012.
ABOUT THE 4th of July Championship
Long-running stroke play tournament that was held
years at War
Memorial GC in Little Rock but moves to Hot Springs
play championship with
three age brackets for older players (Mid-Seniors,
Seniors, Super Seniors) plus
match play brackets for net players.
View Complete Tournament Information