Georgia golfer excited to return
By Bill Knight
El Paso Times
Chris Kirk still has a special place in his memory bank for last year's final round, that wonderful three-man battle that went right down to El Paso Country Club's 18th hole. The memories remain good, the experience remains good -- even though he would have preferred a different script for the ending.
Kirk, the talented first-team All-American from Georgia, is excited to be back this year for the 32nd annual Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic at El Paso Country Club. He enjoys the fun on Saturday, the light-hearted banter that goes with Sunday's long drive and putting contests and practice round. And he certainly enjoys the actual competition -- 36 holes on Monday and the final 18 on Tuesday morning.
"I am really looking forward to coming back," Kirk said. "It was a great time. And the final day, with Luke (List, Vanderbilt) and Pablo Martin of Oklahoma State and I going at it was really fun. We all had a great time. Pablo and I have had a lot of head-to-head battles, and so have Luke and I. These are the elite playersof college golf, and we see each other at tournaments. But this is a more relaxed atmosphere. We are there to have a good time. But the tournament is still important."
List knocked in a 2-foot putt on the 18th hole to edge Kirk by one shot and Martin by two for last year's victory.
Since that time, though, Kirk has had some spectacular results. He finished second in the 2006 NCAA Championships, was second in the final Golfweek/ Sagarin Ratings and earned that first-team All-American honor. This fall he finished second in the World Amateur Championships in South Africa.
"The fall has been good," Kirk said. "Up and down. I played in four tournaments and had two good results and two not-so-good ones. I played really well in two and really bad in two. I won the Carpet Capital Collegiate at our rival Georgia Tech. And I tied for second at the World Amateur. The other two I finished between 25th and 30th. There was a stretch there where I wasn't putting well. My putting still wasn't quite there at Georgia Tech, but I hit the ball incredibly well."
He played very well in El Paso last year, too -- carding rounds of 71-63-67.
Western Refining tournament chairman Bob Kimble said, "Chris obviously comes from a great program. Georgia was rated No. 1 in the nation almost the full year. And, of course, he finished second at the NCAA Tournament. He played really well here last year and he, Luke List and Pablo Martin had a great battle on the final day -- especially on the final nine holes."
And Kirk said, "I played well there last year. I put myself in a hole on the first round, shooting even par 71. You have to go low there in that field to have a chance. But I came back with that 63 and 67 and almost got it done."
Kirk finished at 12 under, just one shot behind List and one shot ahead of Martin.
This is the final event of the year for these talented golfers. They will open their serious collegiate seasons after the first of the year, and Kirk also is looking forward to that.
"The University of Georgia is an awesome place and I love it," Kirk said. "There's no place I'd rather be. This is my fourth and final year and it's just been great. We've won two Southeastern Conference titles and an NCAA championship. I'll turn pro, move on to another stage after the college season. But my college experience has been great."
In the meantime, though, Kirk is looking forward to having some more fun in El Paso. And he will get something of a rematch Monday afternoon. Kimble paired Kirk with List and Martin for the afternoon round -- obviously hoping for a few more good memories for everyone.
Bill Knight may be reached at
This article reprinted with permission from the El Paso Times.