NEBO – Greg Parker has won the Skyview Invitational Golf Tournament more times than anyone else, but he hasn’t always been as relaxed coming down the stretch as in his most recent victory.
A six-shot lead will do that for you.
Parker, 53, won the Pro Division in the 60th annual Skyview tourney at Asheville Municipal July 11, shooting a blistering 21-under-par in the three-day event to outpace second-place finisher Noah Ratner by six shots. It was Parker’s second consecutive victory and his record eighth overall.
Parker, the Club Professional at Marion Lake Club, shot a 63 on the first day and produced back-to-back 66s in the final two rounds. Although Parker pulled away at the end, at one point in the final round, he and Ratner were tied. But Parker, a former longtime touring pro, was better down the stretch. By the time he hit the 17th, he held an essentially insurmountable lead.
“It was nice because you could enjoy it,” Parker said. “You’re not stressed out, because I could hit a couple bad golf shots and I’m still going to win. You like winning anyway possible and of course, it’s really fun to, say, birdie the last hole to win. But also, it’s nice every now and then to be able to enjoy 17 and 18.
“Anytime you win, it feels good. I didn’t get to prepare quite as much as I wanted to do, but I felt pretty decent about my game. The first day was obviously key; I got off to a good start. I put myself in contention and then followed up with a pair of 66s. It did get interesting the last day, but I played well.”
Parker entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Skip Taylor and a four-shot advantage over Ratner. But Ratner went nuts out of the gates, birdying six of the first seven holes to forge a tie with Parker through seven.
But the Lake Club pro made birdie on Nos. 8 and 9 to regain a two-shot lead. Later, Ratner made a double on No. 11, and never got closer than three the rest of the way.
It was Parker’s second shot on No. 9 that turned the tide, he said. Faced with a difficult lie – the ball was in the rough and well below his feet – Parker hit a club more than he ordinarily would from 98 yards. He knocked it tight and tapped in for birdie.
“I was gambling that the rough would slow the club down and it would be hard to make really good contact,” Parker said. “I feel like it was a really big shot to pull off at that time. I got my two-shot lead back going into the back nine.”
From there, all Parker had to do was bring it on home, and that’s never been a problem for him at Asheville Municipal.
“I’ve played very well in that tournament over the years,” he said. “It’s just been a good golf course for me for whatever reason. We played Broadmoor for a little while and it suited my game pretty well.
“But the back nine at Muni really suits my game. It’s target golf; that golf course is not much about length. It’s nice to have some length on the first few holes, but after that, it’s really built for precision. It’s about course management, and that’s always been one of my strengths.”