SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the Snead flight, where the 20-plus handicappers all strive to shave strokes off their game, Larry Harper improved his score all four days, culminating with a final round 88, to win the flight by eight shots.
The 57-year-old, from San Antonio, Tex., had a secret weapon: his son, Texas, who caddied for him all week. This was Harper's first nationals and Texas, a 20-year-old that recently turned pro and is competing in events in Texas, helped him navigate new waters.
"He helped in all aspects," said Harper. "He would tell me to club up on each hole. Reading the greens, there's no one that can help you like him. When he would see me nervous he would tell me to calm down."
What's most remarkable about them both is that neither picked up the game until they moved to San Antonio from Mexico three years ago. They found a home in the Dominion neighborhood in northern San Antonio, where upon their first day of living there they played their first round of golf.
"You get set of clubs with a membership," said Harper. "The next day I bought a golf cart."
Suffice to say, Larry and his son were hooked fast. Texas played on the Am Tour until he decided to turn pro this year. Larry, meanwhile, competed in 11 events this season leading up to nationals.
With the nationals victory, Harper will move up to the Jones flight next season on Am Tour, where he'll compete against 16-19.9 handicaps.
Championship flight goes to extra holes
There were fireworks in the Championship flight, where perennial contender K.C. Fox set out to upset defending champion Bob Brooks. The two entered the final day tied, and, down the stretch, Brooks was down two with two to play. But he rallied with a birdie on the par-5 17th hole and made a 3-footer for par on 18. Fox had a putt inside him to win, but missed it. Each shot 74 and headed to extra holes.
"It's just like they tell you, 'don't count your chickens before they hatch," said Fox. "I may have done that. [The putt] didn't even hit the hole."
In sudden death, they both parred the par-4 1st hole. Then, on the second, Brooks hit a hybrid from the fairway, 236 yards out. It took a bad bounce and trickled through the desert and settled an inch out of bounds. Fox prevailed with a bogey.
Brooks and Fox have been paired up a few times now in recent nationals, and Brooks is impressed by Fox's game.
"He's a great ball striker," said Brooks. "He hits the ball really close to the pin, real good touch out of the sand, and he has a good tee shot. He's a fun guy to compete against."
"This is a tournament that I set out to win at the beginning of the year," said Fox, who plans on using this tournament as a springboard into some of the top amateur events in the national like the North-South Amateur at Pinehurst.
"It's a big deal to play in this."