Billy Mitchell and Gary Robinson tied at the top of Jones Cup Senior Invitational
Billy Mitchell (Kevin Price photo)
Billy Mitchell (Kevin Price photo)

Atlanta’s Billy Mitchell and North Carolina’s Gary Robinson share the lead after two rounds at the Jones Cup Senior Invitational taking place this week at the Sea Island Golf Club.

Going into the final round on Thursday, both Mitchell and Robinson are 1-under-par for the tournament and hold a one-shot lead over another Atlanta golfer, Jack Larkin, who is even-par after the first 36 holes of play on the par-70 Seaside Course which annually hosts the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic each fall.

One of senior amateur golf’s biggest championships is still very much up for grabs as the leaderboard is crowded going into the closing 18 holes in the 54-hole tournament. Following the top three names on the scoreboard are another 14 players who are within four shots of the lead going into Thursday’s final round.

“It’ll be fun,” Mitchell said. “This is a patience place, and they can make it as hard as they want with the pins, and it’ll be interesting to see the setup for the final round. But, I love this place. The golf course is in unbelievable shape.”

Mitchell, the No. 9-ranked player in the latest Amateur Golf.Com senior rankings, is the only player in the field to shoot par or better in the opening two rounds this week. He posted a 1-under 69 in Tuesday’s first round to sit a shot back of first-round leader Sherill Britt who carded a 68 to grab the overnight lead and was the only other player to card a round under par on the first day of play.

In the second round, Mitchell, who tied for 13th last month at the Golfweek Senior POY Classic, shot a round of even-par and made a tap-in birdie at the last to hold the clubhouse lead at 1-under early in the afternoon.

His scorecard in round two showed two birdies and two bogeys on both nines. Wednesday’s round was just his second in competition on the Seaside layout which plays through coastal marshes and also borders the ocean in spots. Winds off the water often make a challenging course more difficult which was the case in Tuesday’s first round which was greeted by winds gusting above 20 mph at times.

Gary Robinson
The wind wasn’t as severe in round two and there were a few more scores in red numbers.

“The course didn’t play as hard, but without the wind, the golf course still stands on its own. You have to hit a lot of quality golf shots to score on this course,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t make some of the putts I made yesterday, and early on, I didn’t hit a lot of the fairways. I got out of position and made some bogeys in the middle of the round.”

Five players carded under-par scores on Wednesday and the lowest was by Robinson, who is ranked 44th in the latest senior rankings. His 4-under 66 is currently the low individual score through 36 holes and it put the golfer from Spring Lake, N.C., in a tie for the lead going into the last day. Robinson opened with a 73 in the first round.

“I was really happy with the way I stroked the ball,” he said. “I played close to as good yesterday, but I had three tee shots that got away from me and I had penalties. One was a double-bogey, so that kind of kept the score up a little bit.

“But today, I hit the ball really solid and played really well. I started out with a tap-in on the first hole and made a birdie on the second hole as well and got the round started from there.”

Robinson actually gave those shots back with bogeys on his next two holes, but he closed his front nine with a pair of birdies to turn at 2-under for the day. He kept his stellar play going with two more birdies on his back nine to go with seven pars.

“I was hoping to get to (even-par) or a couple under and be close to the lead and be in the last couple of groups tomorrow,” he said. “So, I accomplished my goal. Now, I’ll just try to go get a good night’s rest and get ready for tomorrow.”

Robinson recorded three top-5 finishes at the end of last year including a tie for second at the Ralph Bogart Senior when he was tied for the lead late.

Larkin will join the two co-leaders in the final pairing on Thursday. The Atlanta player shot 69 in round two after posting a 71 in the first round and is even through two rounds. He made four birdies in his Wednesday round.

Three players will start the final day two off the lead at 1-over, including No. 24-ranked John Wright.

Nine golfers are 2-over going into the closing round and are just three behind the leaders, including Mike McCoy who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team later this year, Bob Royak, a past Jones Cup Senior and U.S Senior Am champion and Jack Hall, who won the 2015 Jones Cup Senior.

Britt, the first-round leader, is also in this group. He shot 74 on Wednesday.

• • • • •


Good Odds: The Jones Cup Senior has crowned a golfer from Georgia as champion several times in the past. Two such golfers were named above as Hall and Royak are both in-state golfers. Doug Hanzel, a four-time winner of this event, is also from the Peach State.

Georgia has several players currently ranked high in the senior rankings, so coming into the week, all of these guys had a good chance to keep the tournament trophy inside the state lines.

And with 18 holes to go now, Atlanta’s Billy Mitchell and Jack Larkin are running 1-2 on the leaderboard while Augusta’s Jeff Knox is two shots behind the leaders.

Royak and Hall are both tied for seventh and are three out of the lead starting the final round.

Afternoon Agenda: Mitchell made his tap-in birdie putt on the 18th hole at about 1:15 in the afternoon on Wednesday, so he had a lot of time to kill the rest of the day. When asked about his plans for the remainder of the day, he said he first planned to grab a bite to eat back in the clubhouse after signing his scorecard before going to the putting green where he would make 100 4-foot putts before leaving the practice area.

After that, he planned to do a yoga workout, read a book and then pack up his belongings before resting up for the final round.

Asked what book he is currently reading, here is what he said: “I’m reading a book by Bill O’Reilly called ‘Killing Patton.’ I like World War 2 history.”

As for the other co-leader, Robinson’s afternoon plans involved a card game with some of the fellow competitors who were waiting on him to finish out his second round so they could start. The game of choice was gin rummy, according to one of the other players who planned to be at the card table.

Spotted: A large cargo vessel passed through the shipping channel in mid-afternoon Wednesday beyond the 10th hole on the Plantation Course at the Sea Island Golf Club which you can see through the glass windows in the tournament room inside The Lodge where players are signing their scorecards this week. From there, you get great views of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance and oftentimes beautiful sunsets in the evenings as a bagpiper plays nightly during the usual cocktail and dinner hour for guests and club members to enjoy an evening on the outside lawn.

It’s not unusual to see the large ships passing through the deep channel either as they come and go from the nearby Colonel’s Island, a deepwater port on the Georgia coast.

Results: Jones Cup Senior
1GABob RoyakAlpharetta, GA120071-71-69=211
2GAJeff KnoxAugusta, GA90070-71-70=211
T3IAMike McCoyW. Des Moines, IA70070-72-70=212
T3NCSteve HarwellMooresville, NC70070-72-70=212
T3GAWilliam MitchellAtlanta, GA70069-70-73=212

View full results for Jones Cup Senior

ABOUT THE Jones Cup Senior

54-hole senior invitational event inaugurated in 2012, that follows in the footsteps of the Jones Cup, an event that unofficially kicks off the amateur circuit each year.

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