E.A. Sports Today

Rolling Red winner

Griffin birdies 18 to overtake Montenegro, wins Rolling Red Alabama Classic by a shot

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The 18th hole at Cider Ridge Golf Club has been really good to J.T. Griffin this week. Not so much for Jesus Montenegro.

Griffin, a 35-year-old former Georgia Tech player, won both Rolling Red Tour events this week on the 18th green at the Oxford course — beating Montenegro both times.

He beat the former Jacksonville State player and PGA Latin American Tour winner in a playoff for the one-day Alabama Shootout on Tuesday, then made birdie to Montenegro’s bogey on 18 Thursday to shoot 10-under-par 134 and win the Alabama Classic by one shot. He also birdied the hole Wednesday to take the opening-round lead.

Montenegro hit it out of bounds off the tee on the hole in the playoff and the final round. Still, he shot the low round of the tournament Thursday, a 66.

“The 18th hole is the scariest hole out there, with OB down the right and water down the left,” Griffin said. “If you can get your drive out there it’s definitely gettable, but you’re make-or-break off the tee. It’s a good risk-reward par-5 and I was lucky enough to hit a good drive basically all three days.”

He earned $4,000 for his third career Rolling Red win and second this year — and $1,500 for the Shootout — “a little Christmas money” since falling into golf purgatory after losing his status after five years on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The players were tied for the lead at 9-under through 16. Montenegro took the lead with a birdie on 17 — his third birdie in a row — and then 18 happened.

After hitting his tee shot on 18 out of bounds, Montenegro pulled his next shot into the hazard. He took a drop, hit his fifth into into the bunker, then holed out for bogey. Griffin went for the green in 2, hitting a 6-iron from 208 yards, and missed it slightly left of the green onto the side of the hill. With all the green to work with, he chipped to six feet and made what he called one of the best putts he’s hit in a while for a second straight 67 and the win.

“I really didn’t want to go extra holes and have to hit that tee shot again,” Griffin said. “I didn’t want to give him a do-over on the 18th.

“One of my buddies asked me yesterday how big a lead do you want on 18? I said I want four standing on 18 tee .. in case somebody makes eagle, I can still make bogey and win. You can make eagle or double with one swing.”

Former PGA Tour winner Heath Slocum and S.M. Lee finished tied for third at 140. Flint Bekkers of Freeport, Fla., shot 30 on the front with an eagle on 9, but played his last four holes in 3-over with a double on 17, shot 69 and finished fifth.

This was the second straight year Rolling Red brought its tour to Cider Ridge. While next year’s tournament schedule is still under construction, tournament coordinator Kevin Burns said as many as six events could be played there next year.

“I’d probably keep this course in for a long time,” Burns said. “There’s really no reason to leave this course.”

Cover photo of Alabama Classic winner J.T. Griffin by B.J. Franklin

J.T. Griffin, Marietta, Ga.6767134
Jesus Montenegro, Moody6966135
Heath Slocum, Milton, Ga. 6872140
S.M. Lee, Suwanee, Ga. 6872140
Flint Bekkers, Freeport, Fla.7269141
Joe Weiler, Bloomington, Ind.7072142
Wilson Simmons, Nashville, Tenn.7971150
Justin Johns, South Fulton, Tenn.7282154
J. Michael Riley, Birmingham7183154
Jake Brogdon, Yulee, Fla.8083163
Juan Hutardo, Birmingham8283165
Brandon Mancheno, Jacksonville, Fla.77DQDQ

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