Story from D’Courtland Christian with the Daily American Republic. Click here to read the article on their site: https://www.semoball.com/story/2992974.html
The winds were low and the sun shined bright as the top contenders competed Sunday for the 2023 Tom Hoover Ozark Invitational championship.
Joshua Rhodes landed top honors and finished the tournament the same way he started, as No. 1. The Kentucky native finished in a three-way tie for the lead on Saturday and connected with solid strokes down the stretch to edge out Jason White for the title Sunday.
There were only two rounds under 70. That’s the fewest rounds in the 60s since there were also only two in 2007, making this invitational tough for even the more experienced golfer — but Rhodes pulled it out.
“It’s a big relief to win it all,” Rhodes said about winning the championship. “It’s been a long time since I brought my first title home in 2016. Honestly, it was kind of an early win because of how I started. I wasn’t striking the ball like I normally would, but those par saves helped me.”
Rhodes becomes the 15th player to earn multiple titles, which he first won in 2016. His 1-under-par 141 score was the highest winning score for a two-round event since 1983 when Jim Hotgrieve won at even-par 142.
Rhodes went head-to-head with two other standout golfers from Saturday, but the decision of the winner came down to a faceoff between him and White.
Both remained neck-and-neck for most of the tournament, but Rhodes said he noticed one of the biggest turns was on hole no.17, where he thought he finally took the edge over White.
“White is a great competitor because it was truly a roller-coaster ride throughout the day,” Rhodes said. Coming around hole 17 gave me a huge boost as we got towards the end. I hit one not in a great play, but it wedged up about 15 feet below the hole.
To me, that flipped situations to where I’m in a position to take the lead and then to get a great tee shot on 18 while under pressure wasn’t bad either.”
His round Sunday featured three birdies, 12 pars and three bogeys. After a par-birdie start, he landed one more birdie and parred the rest of the first half. He ran into a rough patch by landing three bogies starting at hole 11, but finished strong with birdie and par on the final two holes.
Rhodes said this win feels a lot different compared to the one in the past.
He said he felt more mentally prepared, gaining a lot of confidence not only in his swing but finding ways to push through the adversity throughout the tournament. Rhodes said he doesn’t get to practice as much as he would like, so winning is a special moment.
As a first-time entry to the Tom Hoover Ozark Invitational, White, a St. Charles native, made quite the impact with his first trip around the course.
“It’s been really great down here,” White said about his first visit. “The hospitality here is amazing. A lot of my St. Louis buddies suggested I come to play here, and they said I would love playing here, and I did. The staff was great and I met a lot of great people. I thought I had it at the end, but the last few holes got me.”
His round Sunday featured two birdies, 13 pars and three bogeys. White struggled initially by landing a par-bogey within the first two holes. After pushing through 10 holes, everything went smoothly and he parred the rest of the way. His overall score is even-par with a total of 142.
Jeff Eiserman of Springfield, Missouri, won the 2023 Tom Hoover Ozark Invitational’s senior division.
After tying for 12th last year, Eiserman came lock and loaded, securing a comfortable lead by scoring a 2-under-par 69 on Saturday, Eiserman didn’t have to focus on having a perfect second round to get the championship.
His round Sunday featured two birdies, 10 pars and six bogies. Despite not having a solid match, Eiserman made enough plays on the previous day to outlast the competition. He finished with an overall 2-over-par 144.
Poplar Bluff’s Jerrod Murphy and Brad Thielemier finished in the top 10 of the senior division. As for the championship division, no Poplar Bluff native has won the invitational since 2015 when Carr Vernon won for the second time in a playoff.
Despite not having a native play for the championship, a golfer manged to slip into the top 10.
Poplar Bluff’s Alex Wiseman landed the 10th spot in the invitational after finishing 27th last year. Though he did finish higher than before, Wiseman said that’s not enough for him as he aspires to win it all one day.
“I thought my play was good,” Wiseman said. “I had a really good chance to win because my score was great, but I came out today and couldn’t get things going. The Ozark is a big deal for guys around here, so it’s a major tournament to win. I don’t think we’ve had someone win in a long while, so I really want to win it.
I know if I play well, I can win this tournament, and I believe I will very soon.”