BY MARK BEASON
Rett Crowder either needs a new mantle or a new fireplace.
The Madison native won his sixth Mississippi Golf Association State Amateur championship, running away with the title Sunday at Tupelo Country Club.
Crowder was the only player under par, playing the par-72 layout in 10-under for the week. He shot a final round 71 to win the tournament by 11 strokes. Former Mississippi State golf coach Greg Martin finished in second, 1-over for the week.
In 1991 Crowder finished second to Chad Ginn in the State Am, losing in a playoff. There wasn't a chance for extra holes this time around, with Crowder starting his final round with a nine-shot lead.
“This ride home will be a lot better,” Crowder said. “That loss stung – it was a tough one to take.”
On the fast greens at TCC, Crowder had a solid week with the putter. For the first time in a tournament, he changed his putting grip, going with his left hand down. He's hasn't been using the new grip long, but he's pleased with the results.
“I only use it when I'm inside 10 feet,” he said. “But I thought I putted well all week.”
Martin started the day down by nine shots, and a miracle comeback wasn't in the cards. He was 1-over for his final round, never making a push. Although he wanted to win the tournament, playing pain-free was just as important.
“You hope that you can go out and shoot a 30 on the front,” Martin said. “But I just didn't have the game to do it.”
He's been playing with pain the past couple years and found out he had three broken bones in his left wrist. After being in a cast until February, this was the first time he's been able to play in a tournament.
“I just love to go out and compete,” he said. “I was hoping to find my game, but it just wasn't there. At times it was almost like I've forgotten how to play.”
Senatobia's Kyle Ellis shot a 71 Sunday to place third in just his second appearance in the State Am. He finished 26th last year and had to go through a qualifier to make the field. Ellis, who won the Class 3A title three straight years, has signed with Ole Miss.
“I think I played pretty well all week,” Ellis said. “I didn't started out good, shooting a 75, but I was able to get my putter going.”
Crowder won his first title in 1992, then strung together four straight wins, starting in 1998. Lane Pippin ended the streak last year and was in contention early on this year. But a 74 on Saturday and a 76 on Sunday ended hopes of a repeat.
After the first round, Crowder was tied with Justin Emil at 3-under. But in the second round, Crowder started to distance himself from the pack. He shot the low round of the week, firing a 6-under 66 to take an eight-shot advantage.
“Friday's round opened things up pretty good,” he said. I just tried to stay solid and consistent all week.”
Although he's won six times, Crowder said hoisting the trophy never gets old. Mike Taylor is the only player to win the State Am more times. Taylor has won it 10 times, winning his last one in 1978.
“This is the tournament I gear up for every year,” Crowder said. “They all matter to me.”