'Flintoid' Jerry Kelly holds off Woody Austin to win Ally Challenge
Grand Blanc — Jerry Kelly had a new nickname for this week.
Dubbed by a friend, the 52-year-old Kelly was a "Flintoid" while he spent the weekend at Warwick Hills Golf Club, where he followed his 7-under 65 performance Saturday with a 4-under 68 to take the second annual Ally Challenge. The win secures his second-place standing in the Charles Schwab Cup and he takes home the $300,000 grand prize from the $2 million purse.
And after he secured his win with a birdie on the 17th hole, ensuring $2 beers for spectators, Kelly said the win has been one of the highlights of his year.
"The people were fantastic out there," Kelly said, smiling. "We're so happy to be back at this tournament. (Holes) eight and 17 are so fun to play in front of. I just wanted to birdie for those guys so they can have a little more time out here."
The win ups Kelly's total winnings in the series to $1,861,882 and marks the first win since the American Family Insurance Championship in late June in his native Madison, Wisconsin.
Kelly entered Sunday at 12-under 132 and one stroke ahead of Woody Austin and Schwab Cup front-runner Scott McCarron, but was able to widen his lead by shooting a 2-under 34 on the front nine. Austin kept a firm holding of second place and ended with 3-under 69, but wasn't able to gain any ground on Kelly.
McCarron ended the weekend shooting an uncharacteristic 3-over 75 and tied for 15th for a $35,000 payout. But with 12 top-10 finishes, McCarron still has a comfortable first-place lead with $2.35 million.
"We've got to catch up to Scotty," Kelly said. "We've got to do something special. He's been playing great and he's got a huge lead. All we can try to do is chase him down, try to win tournaments. We're all trying to play the best we can every single week, so just do the same thing next week."
Austin birdied the third, sixth, eighth and 14th holes to cut Kelly's lead down to one stroke with four holes to go. But he stumbled and bogeyed the 15th, marking Austin's first hole over par on the back nine this weekend, allowing Kelly to hang on.
"It just wasn't my day," Austin said. "I had a couple things out there that tell you it's just not your time, a couple bad bounces and things. I've always said that when the person that wins usually has something happen on Sunday when it's that close."
In comparison, Kelly's 16-under weekend was in part by bogey-free rounds over the last two days. Kelly's only bogey came on the ninth hole on Friday.
"When it's a two-man race like it was, it's that close, there's usually something that happens and there was enough that happened out there to let me know it wasn't my time," Austin said. "But I kept fighting and I gave myself a chance. It just wasn't my day."
Steve Flesch, Tim Petrovic and David Toms finished tied for third at 12 under, and climbed four, eight and 11 spots, respectively, to split a share of $144,000. Petrovic and Flesch had their best rounds of the weekend with Petrovic shooting a 5-under 67 and Flesch firing a 6-under 66. Toms shot a 4-under 68.
Lake Orion's Tom Gillis had a rough go Sunday after coming into the day tied for fourth at 9 under. The Metro Detroit native shot a 66 for a share of first place on Friday, but slid three spots and finished Sunday's finale with a 71 for a five-way tie for seventh.
"It was a little tough today," Gillis said. "I made a few more mistakes. I think I had two bogeys in two days in the first two rounds and I had three bogeys in the first nine today.
"I might have been a little more nervy today, just the last day and I'm playing at home in front of the hometown fans. But all in all, I guess if you told me the beginning of the week I'd get in the top 10, I'd say I'll take it."
Warwick Hills, former longtime site of the Buick Open, will host the Ally Challenge until 2025. The announcement of the five-year extension came midday Saturday. However, next year's competition will take place July 27-Aug. 2. One media official said attendance numbers for the weekend won't be made public but ensured the turnout was better than last year's inaugural challenge.
And if Kelly returns next year to defend his title, he might have the crowd cheering on the honorary "Flint-oid."
"What about 'Flintstone,'" one reporter asked.
"Sorry, I like 'Flintoid,'" Kelly said, smirking.