Team's string of birdies proves the difference

Monday, August 20, 2007
Travis Mitchell followed his shot off the 14th tee at Dalhousie Golf Club on Sunday. (Fred Lynch)

A Springfield duo cruised on the back nine to win the title.

When a two-man golf team finds itself trailing by three or four shots in the final round of a tournament, it's not a bad idea for one of them to go by the name of Stalker.

That is Stalker, as in stalking pins, stalking birdies and stalking the lead.

That's exactly what Tyler Stalker did Sunday at the Missouri Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club.

With playing partner Travis Mitchell in tow, Stalker lived up to his name, as the Springfield duo covered the back nine in 28 strokes for a round of 61 and a two-shot victory over the defending champions Mark Korell and Brad Nurski of St. Joseph, Mo.

Tyler Stalker watched his tee shot to the 14th hole at Dalhousie Golf Club on Sunday. (Fred Lynch)

After Mitchell birdied three holes on the front, he unleashed his partner on the back.

"He can make birdies in bunches, and I told him when we made the turn, 'We need one of your patented birdieing five out of seven holes,' and he did better than that," Mitchell said.

In fact, Mitchell said, his partner "went nuts" on the back nine.

The duo birdied six straight holes, beginning at 12 and ending at 17. Mitchell provided the birdie on the par-4 No. 14, but the rest belonged to Stalker. He capped his hot stretch with a 21-foot eagle putt on No. 18, which provided the team with its two-shot margin of victory.

"We knew standing on the tee box we needed to make birdie probably," Stalker said. "Obviously, eagle helps out."

After rounds of 66 and 61 for a 127 total, the team had to wait and hope its 17 under withstood the final three groups. The most serious test came from Korell and Nurski, who had shot an opening-round 65 and were paired with Chuck Admire and Ed Brown, a Lee's Summit duo that had taken a one-stroke lead with a 64 on Saturday.

The defending champions had a pulse to the end, but Nurski came up well short on an eagle chip from just off the green that could have forced a playoff.

Mitchell and Stalker, sitting in a cart greenside, then exhaled.

"You don't ever want to show up at a golf tournament without the idea that you're going there to win it, so we came here with the attitude that we would do whatever we could to win the golf tournament," Mitchell said. "We just didn't come down here to show up. Things worked out. We made a lot of putts and made a lot of good shots."

Stalker overpowered the back, hitting a variety of wedges with laser precision after monstrous drives. Four of his birdies were inside of 4 feet, and the fifth came from 8 feet.

Mitchell, 34. and Stalker, 23, met about four years ago and both are members of Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield. Also in common are impressive golf resumes. Mitchell reached the semifinals of the Missouri Amateur Championship in 2003 and the quarterfinals in 2002, while Stalker won Springfield's city championship three weeks ago. While they have played a lot of golf together, the Four-Ball Championship marked the first time they had teamed up in a major tournament.

"We both know we've got it in us; we've done it before," Stalker said. "You just have to put it together at one time, when it matters."

Korell and Nurski also have been on top of their game this summer, with Korell winning two invitationals this summer and Nurski claiming the St. Joseph city tournament the previous weekend by 12 strokes.

"We honestly thought if we'd shoot a 64 today, we'd probably win," Korell said. "And that's what we shot, so hats off to them."

After seeing the course for the first time in a practice round, Mitchell and Stalker said they anticipated a winning score around 10 under. They were 11 under on the final day alone.

"Eleven under out here, that is awesome," Nurski said. "Obviously they're two good players -- you can not be and shoot a 61."

The team of Tyler Shelton and Andrew Emerson, the tournament runner-up the last two years, also closed strong, shooting a 63 on Sunday to claim a share of third place with Admire and Brown.

Locally, the teams of Brevin Giebler and Brian Sheehan, both of Cape Girardeau, tied for 12th with the team of Mark McDowell and Mike Agers at 136. Giebler and Sheehan had rounds of 69 and 67.

"We did OK, but we should have done better," Giebler said. "We had three bogeys yesterday and two today. If you eliminated the bogeys, we would have placed higher."

McDowell of Jackson and Agers of Cape Girardeau entered Sunday's round one stroke off the lead, but followed a 65 with a 71.

MGA Four-Ball Championship

at Dalhousie Golf Club

Travis Mitchell/Tyler Stalker66-61--127
Mark Korell/Brad Nurski65-64--129
Ed Brown/Chuck Admire64-66--130
Tyler Shelton/Andrew Emerson67-63--130
Dustin Ashby/Tim Swoboda66-66--132
Joseph Behl/Darren Lundgren66-66--132
Vernon Bennett/Brad Bennett65-67--132
Antonio Serrano/Scott Whitaker68-64--132
David McDonald/Chris Johnson65-69--133
Justin Doss/Matt Lewis65-69--134
Robert Godwin/Trent Hillis67-67--134
Brevin Giebler/Brian Sheehan69-67--136
Mark McDowell/Mike Agers65-71--136
Scott Thomas/Jack Eisenbeis66-70--136
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