Upstate Amateur Golf

First round 61 powers Biershenk to Wooten win at Saluda Valley

When golfers are waiting around for their tee time at a tournament it isn’t uncommon to share a tip or trick with the other golfers waiting to tee off.

Usually the tip will come from a friend, a good golfer or a pro, but for Robbie Biershenk as he waited to play his first round in the Earl Wooten Memorial at Saluda Valley, his tip came from YouTube.

“I had a late tee time and I’ve been struggling so bad on the green I thought I would look at YouTube and see if there was a tip that would help me,” he said.

He entered some generic question about how to putt better in the search box and struck gold. He watched the tip and decided to try it.

“I have been putting so bad I was ready to try anything. What I got from the tip was to get the putter grip a little higher up in my hands, along the life line. My father had suggested something like that to me, but seeing it on YouTube it stuck,” he said.

Robbie Biershenk checks the new putter grip he used to win the Earl Wooten Memorial at Saluda Valley Country Club. (GolfClub Photo)

So far this summer Biershenk has been near the top of almost every tournament he has played, but at some point his putting problems dropped him out of contention.

“I didn’t think I had anything to lose so I tried it. I made a 4-footer on one and a 15 footer on three. I thought I might as well stick with it,” he said.

The birdies kept dropping and an eagle was added to the scorecard and Biershenk came to the 17th hole in his first round to face a “Tin Cup” moment.

“I was on the tee on 17 and started to think, if I birdie 17 and eagle 18, I can shoot a 58,” he recalled thinking.

Much like Roy McAvoy’s try for a US Open scoring record, a bogey on 17 ended any chance for Biershenk to put a 58 on the scorecard.

Instead he had to settle for a 29-32 11-under par 61 and a 6-shot lead over Mike Hartin in second place.

With former champion Josh Branyon and defending champion Erskine College golfer Parker Jackson well off the lead the battle in the second round was for second place.

If there was any surprise in the second round it might have only been that Biershenk was focused and kept doing what worked for him in the opening round. Something he hadn’t been able to do this summer.

“I really focused in on what I was doing and played Shot-Link and Trackman golf. I knew I could hit it 310, but instead I was hitting it 270 off the tee and putting myself in good position,” he said.

Sticking with what worked Biershenk added to his lead during the first nine of the second round.

Former Wooten champion Josh Branyon shot a final round 5-under par 67 to finish second. (GolfClub Photo)

He made the turn at 15-under par by taking a little off his tee shots and using his new putter grip.

“I knew I had a cushion, but I wasn’t going to sit on it. I stayed patient and tried to add to my lead,” he said.

Biershenk carded only two bogeys in the 36 hole tournament and both of them came on the same 17th hole.

Adding in his second round 5-under par 67, Biershenk won his second Wooten title.

While he didn’t get his 58 he did set what is believed to be a new tournament record for the long running event with his 16-under par 128 total.

“I had given so many shots away and missed chances to win because of my putting this year. I’m hoping I found something that I can keep doing and keep having these kind of scores,” said the champion.

In most years Branyon’s 9-under par 135 would be good enough for the 3-time Wooten champion to add a fourth title, but this year it was 7-shots off the lead and only good for second place.

Steven Reed shot a final round 4-under par 68 to jump up and slide by Hartin for third place by a stroke at 138.

While the Wooten Memorial was a convincing win for Biershenk, the other two divisions needed  playoffs to determine winners.

Ron Clontz topped Todd Hiott and Guido Bolding for the Senior Division title.

Doug Tooke also needed a playoff before he was able to top Mike Teasley for the Legends Division title.

Flight winners included – First Flight – Brad Sill, Second Flight – Chris Zorn, Third Flight – Jackson Williamson, Fourth Flight – Perry Hartin, Fifth Flight – Jason Reynolds, Sixth Flight – Jeff Dietrich, Senior First Flight – Mark Torres, Legends First Flight – Mike Dodson

Steven Reed added a 4-under par 68 to his first round 70 to finish in third place at the Earl Wooten Memorial. (GolfClub Photo)

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