Manning claims first Kivett title

·3 min read

May 8—HIGH POINT — Rocky Manning made a successful return to the amateur ranks Saturday.

In his first tournament since regaining amateur status, the former Weselyan Christian, mini-tour and professional caddie played the best down stretch at Oak Hollow while others in the lead group struggled and won the rain-delayed Bud Kivett Memorial Tournament that serves as the city championship.

Manning, who now lives in Greensboro, shot a final round 71 that was good enough as he held off Matthew Younts by a shot after first-round leader Forrest Blevins imploded on the back nine.

Manning, who shot a first-round 70 a week early at Blair Park and entered the final 18 trailing Blevins by three and Yontz by two, was the only one in the championship flight to fire a subpar score in the final round and finished at 1-under 141.

Younts carded 1-over 73 for 142. Blevins shot 42 on the back nine on the way to 78 and a finish in a three-way tie for third at 145 with Sam Edmunds and Wes Cline.

Manning, who played his last pro tournament in 2018, attempted to get onto the PGA Tour through qualifying school three times and said he knew his professional dream was over when he caddied for Jason Kokrak on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour and realized he couldn't beat Kokrak.

"I played in all these tournaments when I was back in high school and this is where I played when I was at Wesleyan," Manning said. "I played in this tournament several times but never could put a good score together at Oak Hollow. So this means a lot. I played this course in school golf almost every day, so it means a lot."

Manning shot 35 on the front nine as he tied Younts and moved within two shots of Blevins, who struggled with his putting on the front nine as he missed five short-range putts, lipping out twice on birdie attempts.

Manning made birdie on the par-5 10th to tie Blevins, who made bogey after a poor tee shot, then took the lead when Blevins made bogey on No. 12. Blevins drew even again and Yountz pulled within one when they made bogey and Manning carded a double-bogey after he put one shot into the woods No. 15.

But, Manning made birdie on 17 with a simple pitch and putt, matching Younts to stay one ahead while Blevins hit a poor tee shot to the eight of the fairway, put his pitch in a bunker and made double bogey in dropping three behind.

Younts had a glimmer of hope when Manning put his tee shot behind some trees on 18. But, Manning played over the trees, hit a good lag putt from 50 feet and made a short putt for par.

"I couldn't get comfortable with the putter all day but I survived," Manning said. "Everyone hit it great on the front side. I was hitting it good. I just had to be patient. The ball was rolling an extra 15 or 20 yards so if you pressed it too much, you could get in some bad spots. . .I just stayed patient."

Blevins said he lost concentration after the bogey on 15.

"I could have putted blind-folded and done better," Blevins said. "I hung in until 15 and that bogey and the missed putts added up. I tried but it was just too much."

For Younts, it was his second runner-up finish in the Kivett.

"It was ugly out there today," Younts said. "I just tried to hang on. Usually my strength out here is driving the ball and I sprayed it all day."

gsmith@hpenews