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Ken Looper wins Three Ridges Classic; Brandon Brown claims Air Capital Classic exemption

Knoxville, Tenn. – (May 26, 2013) – Ken Looper was flummoxed by the inward nine at Three Ridges Golf Club for three rounds. Fortunately for the LSU alumnus, he figured it out at just the right time.

The Mandeville, La., golfer carried a one-stroke lead into the final nine holes of the Three Ridges Classic, shot a 4-under 31 on the backside and cruised to a five-shot victory over Zack Sucher in the $150,000 NGA TOUR event on Sunday.

“I finally figured out how to play the back nine,” said Looper, who played the back nine 3-over par in the first three rounds. “It had been my nemesis all week, but the putts started going in today.”

While Looper’s birdie barrage over the final nine holes was the catalyst in his second Pro Series victory, the former Tiger’s birdie putt on No. 8 may have been just as crucial in propelling him to the win.

After starting the final round with a two-shot cushion over Will McCurdy, Looper was tied with McCurdy for the lead heading to the eighth tee. McCurdy stuffed his approach on the par-3 to a foot, but Looper drained a sweeping, 20-foot putt for birdie to retain a share of the lead.

“That putt was huge,” said Looper, who finished T21 in the PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic last month. "If it doesn’t go in, that ball rolls another five or 10 feet past the hole.”

Looper was alone atop the leaderboard one hole later, following a bogey by McCurdy, and he never slowed down coming to the clubhouse, birdieing Nos. 11, 13, 15 and 18 to claim the $22,000 top prize.

“It feels nice to win again,” said Looper, who posted a final-round 67 and finished at 12-under par for the event. “It’s been over a year now since my last win. I told my dad and my coach about two months ago that my game is the best it has ever been and now it’s finally starting to show.”

Though Looper’s exploits late in the final round sapped the suspense out of the outcome, the “Race for the Air Capitol Classic” exemption was drama-laden down to the final groups of the day.

Brandon Brown, who won last week’s Cherry Blossom Classic, needed to finish 12th or better this week to claim the Tour exemption. On the 18th hole, the Eastern Kentucky alum was tied for 11th, but a bogey would have dropped him to T15. After missing the green, Brown of Shelbyville, Ky., got up-and-down to finish T11 and secured a spot in the long-running Tour event.

“It was a lot closer than I expected it to be, but I’m excited about the exemption,” said Brown, a seven-time NGA TOUR winner. “I’ve played in that event before, so I know the course. It’s great that the NGA TOUR has exemptions for us to win. But, hopefully, I won’t ever have to use one again.”

While Looper was the only player in the final two groups to break 70 on Sunday, several players further down the leaderboard made some nice moves in the final round of the Three Ridges Classic.

Sucher, a UAB alumnus from Mobile, Ala., carded seven birdies and two bogeys in the final round to move from a tie for ninth into solo second. The 2012 Tour member posted rounds of 71-69-71-66 for a 7-under 277 total and earned $11,306 for the runner-up effort.

After starting the day T18 at even par, Andrew Ruthkoski was 7-under par through 15 holes before posting double bogey on No. 16. However, the Michigan State alumnus from Muskegon, Mich., finished Sunday with a 5-under 67 and tied for third with Matt Hendrix at 5-under par for the event. Hendrix, a Clemson alum from Greenville, S.C., shot a 3-under 68 in the final round. The duo earned $7,657 each.

Former University of Tennessee golfer and Knoxville native David Holmes closed with a 5-under 67 to join Travis Bertoni and McCurdy in a tie for fifth at 4-under par. Bertoni fired an even-par 71 on Sunday, while McCurdy closed with a 2-over 73.

Former Middle Tennessee State golfers Rich Cochran III (68) and Kent Bulle (71) finished in a tie for eighth with Dandridge’s Peter Malnati (69) at 3-under par, while Casey Clendenon (67), Hunter Hamrick (72) and Patrick Wilkes-Krier (73) joined Brown (72) in a tie for 11th at 2-under par.

For full-field scores, click here.

The NGA TOUR would like to thank all the staff and volunteers at Three Ridges Golf Club for being a gracious host and making the second-year event a resounding success.  

Third Round Update: Ken Looper shoots 67, takes Three Ridges Classic lead

Knoxville, Tenn. – (May 25, 2013) – If Ken Looper figures out how to play the back nine at Three Ridges Golf Club, the field in the NGA TOUR’s Three Ridges Classic may be battling for second place in the final round.

Through the first three rounds, Looper has played the backside 3-over par, but his 11-under total on the front gives the LSU alum the outright lead at 8 under for the week, two shots clear of the Will McCurdy.  

Looper carded five birdies on the opening nine on Saturday to overcome a 1-over backside and posted a 4-under 67 in the third round of play, putting the former Tiger in prime position to claim his second NGA TOUR victory.

“It’s good I started out well today, considering how bad I’ve played the back this week,” said Looper, who finished T21 in the PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic last month. “I guess I need to play the front nine a little better and I’ll keep going lower.”

Looper, who posted scores of 67 and 71 in the first two rounds, started the day T2, one shot off the lead, but he wasted little time moving to the top of the leaderboard. The Mandeville, La., resident birdied three of his first four holes to take the outright lead and began to pull away from the field with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9. After pars at Nos. 10 and 11, Looper had a four-shot lead, but his second double bogey of the week on the backside gave the field a reprieve on the 12th hole.

“I thought I hit a perfect drive on 12, but I didn’t,” said Looper. “It was in the trees and I tried to hit it down by the green. I didn’t get a good lie down there, chunked it in the bunker and it plugged under the lip. I hit it on the green and two-putted. That was the best I could do.”

Looper bounced back with a birdie on No. 17 and made a great up-and-down par on the final hole of the day to keep McCurdy at arm’s length going into the final round of the $150,000 event.

“The up-and-down on 18 was huge,” said Looper. “It definitely helped me going into the final round. I’m just going to go out in the final round and try to shoot the best round of the day.”  

McCurdy, who also started the day tied for second, was unable to keep pace with Looper in the third round, but his 2-under 69 on Saturday kept the Auburn alumnus within earshot of the lead going into the final round. McCurdy of Auburn, Ala., is solo second and 6-under par going into Sunday.

Patrick Wilkes-Krier, who held the 36-hole lead, shot a 1-over 72 in the third round and slipped into a tie for third with Travis Bertoni at 4-under par. Wilkes-Krier, a Ball State alumnus from Orlando, Fla., posted four bogeys and three birdies on Saturday, while Bertoni, a 2011 Tour member from San Luis Obispo, Calif., shot an even-par 71 to stay at 4-under par for the event.

Hunter Hamrick (67), Chris Baker (69), Brandon Brown (70) and former Middle Tennessee State golfer Kent Bulle (71) will start the final round tied for fifth at 3-under par, while Adam Hogue (70) Matt Hendrix (70), Zack Sucher (71), Kelvin Day (72) and MTSU alum Hunter Green (72) will begin play on Sunday T9 at 2-under par.

For full-field scores, click here

The final round of the Three Ridges Classic will start at 7:30 on Sunday. As always, admission is free to the public.


Friday Update: Patrick Wilkes-Krier holds 36-hole lead

Knoxville, Tenn. – (May 24, 2013) – After needing just eight putts to traverse the backside on Thursday morning, Patrick Wilkes-Krier didn’t have an incendiary flatstick on Friday afternoon, but it didn’t matter.

The Ball State alumnus used solid ball striking and timely putting to shoot an even-par 71 in the second round of the Three Ridges Classic and will carry a one-stroke lead over Ken Looper, Travis Bertoni and Will McCurdy into the weekend.

“I managed my game well at times today,” said Wilkes-Krier, who shot a 5-under 66 in the first round. “I was 3 over at one point and then I went on a nice stretch. I hit some good shots, gave myself some birdie putts inside 10 feet and made three in a row. I actually hit it a little bit better than yesterday, but yesterday I putted so well. I had nine more putts today.”

After shooting 4 under on the first nine during Thursday’s round, the Orlando, Fla., resident carded a 1-over 37 on the front in Friday’s round and bogeyed Nos. 11 and 13 to fall to 2 under for the event. However, for the second time in as many days, Wilkes-Krier ran off three birdies in a row and reclaimed the outright lead at 5-under par. The former Cardinal will carry the lead into the weekend and be looking for his first NGA TOUR Pro Series victory.

“I’m just going to come out this weekend, have fun and try to play some good golf,” said Wilkes-Krier. “The more I get my mind out of scores and results and just focus on hitting shots the best I can, the better I’ll play.”

Like Wilkes-Krier, Looper also needed a late-round rally to get back to even par for the day. The former LSU standout from Mandeville, La., made the turn at 3-over par and birdied three of his final eight holes to finish with a 71 and a share of second place at 4-under par.

McCurdy, a former Auburn University golfer from Auburn, Ala., bounced back from a pair of early bogeys with a hole-out eagle on No. 15. Unfortunately for McCurdy, a pair of birdies and bogeys during the rest of the round left him with an even-par 71 on Friday and 4-under par for the $150,000 tournament.

Bertoni was one of the few leaders on Friday to break par in the second round, shooting a 1-under 70. The former Tour member carded three birdies and two bogeys to join McCurdy and Looper in a tie for second.

While most golfers in the field were fighting to break 70 in the second round, Hunter Green had no such trouble with the testy track, shooting a 3-under 68 on Friday. With the low round, the former Middle Tennessee State golfer from Evensville moved from T27 into a tie for fifth with Kelvin Day (70), Kevin Hall (70) and fellow MTSU alum Kent Bulle (71) at 3-under par.

Last week’s winner Brandon Brown and 2012 member Zack Sucher also made nice moves up the leaderboard on Friday, jumping from T27 into a tie for ninth after posting 2-under 69s in the third round. The veterans will start the weekend at 2-under par.

Matt Hendrix (71), Rick Cochran III (69), Adam Hogue (73), Brad Schneider (73), Chris Baker (72), Justin Martinson (70), Lowell Miller (71) and University of Tennessee alum David Holmes (70) will start the weekend T11 at 1-under par.

For full-field scores, click here.

The third round of the Three Ridges Classic will start at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. As always, admission is free to the public.

Second Round Update: Patrick Wilkes-Krier leads Three Ridges Classic

Knoxville, Tenn. – (May 23, 2013) – Patrick Wilkes-Krier carded a 5-under 66 early in the first round of the NGA TOUR’s Three Ridges Classic on Thursday and the score held up the remainder of the day, giving the Ball State alumnus the first-round lead.

Wilkes-Krier, the 2011 NGA TOUR’s Most Improved Player Award winner, started his day on the back nine and was 1-over par through five holes. However, the Orlando, Fla., resident picked up his first birdie of the day on No. 15 and added another on No. 17 to reach 1-under par at the turn.

“I got off to a bad start and hit a few squirrely shots early in the round,” said Wilkes-Krier. “I made a good par putt on No. 12 and that became the theme of the day. I hit a couple of good drives after that and kept it in front of me, but I made everything. I had eight putts on the backside, seven one-putts and a long one from the fringe. I hit some good shots to get within 12 feet and made all of them.”

Once in red numbers, Wilkes-Krier turned up the wick, posting back-to-back-to-back birdies on Nos. 1, 2 and 3. After a two pars on the ensuing holes, the former Cardinal birdied Nos. 6 and 7 before running into trouble on the eighth hole. Wilkes-Krier carded a double bogey on the par-3, but he bounced back with a birdie on No. 9 to move alone atop the leaderboard.

“The double bogey on No. 8 was an aberration,” said Wilkes-Krier. “The wind was picking up and the hole plays way downhill. I hit it 20 yards over the green, but I wasn’t upset because the double came from unfortunate circumstances. I had another putt fall on No. 9 and it felt good to get in with a 66.”

Will McCurdy and Mark Silvers also made the most of the benign conditions during the morning wave, shooting 4-under 67s in the first round of the $150,000 event and finishing the day in a tie for second.

Like Wilkes-Krier, Silvers, a former University of South Carolina standout from Savannah, Ga., started on the outward nine and found himself over par after five holes. A birdie on No. 15 brought Big Break Greenbrier winner back to even par and he added four more birdies over his final 11 holes. 

McCurdy, a former Auburn University standout, didn’t have to dig out of a hole to climb the leaderboard in the opening round. The Auburn, Ala., native went bogey-free through is first 15 holes and posted four birdies. After a bogey on No. 16, McCurdy rebounded with a birdie on No. 17 to join Silvers in second place.

Ken Looper, who finished T21 in the PGA TOUR’s Zurich Classic last month, was one of the few players to make some noise in the afternoon wave. The LSU alum made it a trio of former SEC standouts tied for second by posting 4-under 67. After plodding along at even par for 13 holes, the former Tiger from Mandeville, La., aced the par-3 5th hole and added birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 to move into a tie for second. 

Middle Tennessee State alumnus Kent Bulle from Glasgow, Ky., shot a 3-under 68 to join Travis Bertoni, Adam Hogue, Brad Schneider and Cookville’s Ryan Allison in a tie for fifth place.

Kevlin Day, Chas Narramore, Chris Baker, Kevin Hall, Kevin Roy and Casey Clendenon posted 2-under 69s and were T10 at the conclusion of play on Thursday.

For full-field scores, click here.  

The second round of the Three Ridges Classic will start at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. As always, admission is free to the public.

Three Ridges Classic Quick Facts: 

•    Temperature on the Tee: 68 degrees with winds 6mph WSW
•    Course: Par71, 7,010yards
•    This is the second year the of the Three Ridges Classic
•    Defending champion David Skinns tees off at 7:48 a.m. on No. 10
•    No. 12, a par 5 converted to a par 4 for the tournament, was the most difficult hole in 2012
•    No. 2 was the easiest hole in 2012, yielding 18 eagles and playing -.45 for the week
•    There were 35 eagles and 1,710 birdies made in last year’s Three Ridges Classic
•    Kyle Morris, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had a hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole in Round 1 last year
•    There were three eagles on the 312-yard, par-4 15th hole in 2012. Jordan Blann (Round 2), Patton Kizzire (Round 3) and Jeff Dennis (Round 4)

Preview: NGA TOUR players looking for Three Ridges title, Tour exemption

Knoxville, Tenn. – (May 21, 2013) – Each week, 100s of golfers tee it up on the NGA TOUR, awaiting their chance to play at the next level. For one lucky – and talented – golfer, that chance will come this week.

In addition to a $22,000 payday being on the line in this week’s Three Ridges Classic, one NGA TOUR member will receive an event exemption into the Tour’s Air Capital Classic, formerly known as the Wichita Open, at the Crestview Country Club on Thursday, June 13 through Sunday, June 16. The leading NGA member money earner from the Cherry Blossom Classic and Three Ridges Classic events combined will earn the exemption.

After his victory in last week’s Cherry Blossom Classic, former Eastern Kentucky standout Brandon Brown has the inside track to securing the exemption this week. Brown leads Cherry Blossom runner-up finisher Peter Malnati by over $10,000 in the exemption race coming into the Three Ridges Classic.

“I can’t thank the NGA TOUR enough for having these exemptions for us to win,” said Brown, who finished second at Three Ridges last season. “We all want to move up and the NGA TOUR has done a great job over the years of giving us that chance.”

Last year, Brown, a seven-time NGA TOUR winner from Shelbyville, Ky., earned the NGA TOUR’s event exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open and posted the second-best score during the second round en route to making the cut in his PGA TOUR debut.

While Brown is definitely considered a favorite to claim the exemption this week and contend for his second win of the season this week, there will be no shortage of top-caliber players trying to upstage the 2012 NGA Player of the Year.

The 2013 Three Ridges field features five of the top 10 on the NGA TOUR money list and over 20 NGA TOUR winners, including defending Three Ridges Classic champion and University of Tennessee alumnus David Skinns.

Last season, Skinns, the 2005 SEC Individual champion from Lincoln, England, shot a 5-under 66 in the final round of the inaugural Three Ridges Classic to earn a three-shot win over Brown. Though Skinns has yet to break into the win column this year, the former Volunteer has four top-25 finishes in 2013.

Justin Lower, the leading NGA TOUR money winner, will be looking to become the first three-time winner of the season on the NGA TOUR this week. The former Malone University golfer from Canal Fulton, Ohio, won the Spring Hill Classic in March and the Mountain Lakes Classic in April. The former Pioneer has earned nearly $70,000 this season on the NGA TOUR and leads the exemption race for the PGA TOUR’s Reno-Tahoe Open,” which will be awarded to the leading money winner after the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic in mid-July.

This year’s field will also contain Clayton Rask and Trent Whitekiller, who are both top-five on the NGA TOUR money list entering the Three Ridges Classic. Rask, a former University of Minnesota All-American from Otsego, Minn., sits third on the money list after picking up a win and six top-10 finishes in 10 starts, while Whitekiller, a former Oklahoma State standout from Sallisaw, Okla., has seven top-20 finishes this season and holds down the fourth spot on the money list.

Although he fell in a playoff last week at Cherry Blossom, Malnati should definitely be in the mix again this week. The former University of Missouri golfer from Dandridge has three top-three finishes this season and is eighth on the money list.

If he continues his solid play, former U.S. Public Links champion Jack Newman has to be considered a threat to claim his first NGA TOUR victory this week. The former Michigan State All-American from Des Moines, Iowa, carded 25 birdies and just two bogeys over four rounds last week.

In addition to Malnati, over 20 more players with ties to the Volunteer State will be competing at Three Ridges this week. Ryan Allison (Cookville), Michael Alread (Johnson City), Paul Apyan (Hixson), Andrew Black (Chattanooga), Michael Brice (Nashville), Trey Bridwell (Knoxville), Chase Carroll (Knoxville), Joshua Collins (Plainview), Chris Erwin (Brentwood), Jason Gandy (Knoxville), Hunter Green (Evensville), Brad Helton (Mount Juliet), Andrew Jacobson (Nashville), Zach Johnson (Murfreesboro), Greg Kitts (Caryville), Brent Long (Carthage), Jonathan Martin (Franklin), Chas Narramore (Kingston), Tyler Neff (Knoxville), Zac Radford (Brentwood), Brandon Saunders (Harriman), Thomas Smith (Chattanooga), Dustin Thomas (Mount Juliet), Sam Wampler (Johnson City) and former University of Tennessee team captain David Holmes (Knoxville).

Former Middle Tennessee State alums Rick Cochran III, Kent Bulle and Brad Simons are also in the field for the Three Ridges Classic, which will start at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. As always, admission is free to the public.

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