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Gaunt holds off Vollendorf to repeat

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Photographs by Thomas Metthe

Fayetteville’s Fisher Vollendorf celebrates after sinking his chip shot from the edge of the 10th green for an eagle at the Boys High School Overall Championship on Thursday at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock. Vollendorf finished as runner-up to defending state champion Connor Gaunt of Cabot by one stroke.

Connor Gaunt finished as the boys Overall golf champion for the second year in a row Thursday afternoon. Tournament runner-up Fisher Vollendorf was pleased just to finish.

Gaunt, a senior from Cabot, turned in a bogey-free, 3-under par 69 at Pleasant Valley Country Club to edge Fayetteville's Vollendorf by one stroke. Gaunt also had earned a one-stroke victory at the 6,464-yard course in 2016.

"I came into this saying, 'I've already smelled the roses,' " Gaunt said. "I thought I might as well go out and enjoy the beautiful weather we had today and make some birdies."

Gaunt made birdies on No. 2 and 3 and went 3 under after a third birdie on No. 11, a 343-yard par 4. He finished his round with seven consecutive pars.

Vollendorf, the Class 7A medalist who was playing in the day's final threesome, started even hotter than Gaunt, collecting birdies on No. 3, 4 and 7. But Vollendorf's game turned on No. 8, a 496-yard par 5.

After hitting his tee shot on No. 8 way left of the fairway, Vollendorf slumped in front of his bag.

"I felt great walking off the seventh green," said Vollendorf, who rolled in a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 7. "But after I hit my tee shot, I couldn't see and my head was spinning. I felt super light-headed."

Despite feeling ill, Vollendorf continued to play the hole, but it took him four shots to reach the green. He three-putted for a double bogey.

After the hole, tournament officials called for a 10-minute break to allow Vollendorf to recover.

"I almost passed out," Vollendorf said. "My hands were numb. My face felt numb. It was kinda scary."

Vollendorf said he considered withdrawing from the tournament, but he wanted to complete the front nine before making a decision.

The Fayetteville senior narrowly missed a birdie putt on No. 9 and then started the back nine with an eagle on No. 10, a 532-yard, par 5. He chipped in from just off the green to move back to 3-under for the afternoon.

"It was nice to get those two shots back," Vollendorf said. "By then, my hands felt fine. They were still a little bit numb, but that got me going. I was excited."

The difference came on No. 16, a 358-yard, par 4. Vollendorf bogeyed the hole leaving him one shot behind Gaunt.

Vollendorf had a chance on the final hole to tie. His second shot on the 505-yard, par 5 landed in the middle of three bunkers just right of the green. His blast out went 15 feet past the pin and his tying birdie attempt rolled around the hole before lipping out.

Gaunt and Clinton senior Ty Johnson were the only players to shoot a 2-under 34 on the front nine. Gaunt and Vollendorf were the only two to complete the final nine with a 1-under 35.

"PV is a great golf course, but it is so hard to make birdies and so easy to make bogeys," said Gaunt, who has committed to play golf for Arkansas Tech next season. "The last few holes I missed a couple of greens, but I managed to get up-and-down on all of them. I got up-and-down out of [a] trash can basically [on No. 16] to make my round what it was."

For the second year in row, Gaunt was the runner-up in the Class 7A tournament but wound up as the Overall winner.

Johnson and Jonesboro senior Brett Daughdrill tied for third. They were both six shots behind Gaunt with 3-over 75s.

Sports on 10/13/2017

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