CLEVELAND, Tenn.—Brandon Cissom found his drive in the heavy rough to the left of the cart path along hole No. 14 at Cleveland Country Club.
With tall trees blocking a direct path to the green, it looked as if he'd have to punch out and get his ball back in the fairway.
But he'd been in that spot before -- too many times to count. So he relied on his experience and flew his approach into the par-five over the trees and into a greenside bunker from which he made a birdie.
Cissom utilized course knowledge learned at his unofficial home course to win the Cleveland Invitational on Sunday.
"I've always wanted to win this because it kind of is my home course," said Cissom, who graduated from Lee University. "It's the course I've played the most in my life."
He opened with a 5-under-par 67 on Saturday and followed with a 1-over 73 to finish at 4-under 144. Richard Spangler triple-bogeyed No. 16 on Sunday and finished just one shot behind Cissom in a tie for second with Chris Schmidt. Baylor sophomore Danny Gleeson shot a 142 and Josh Nelms finished fifth at 1 under. Gerald Burns won the senior division at 3-under 141.
"I learned that I need to be a little more patient and wait," said Gleeson, who recently moved to the area from North Carolina. "I wasn't really thinking that well and I never got anything going."
Gleeson fell out of contention early with a double-bogey on his first hole and a 3-over 39 on the front nine holes. Ryan Hulton, who began the last round two shots behind Cissom and Gleeson remained two shots off the lead at the turn. But he faded on the back nine.
Spangler put himself in the mix to win by shooting a 34 on the front. He took the lead at 6 under for the tournament after birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He led Cissom by one.
But his approach on No. 16 landed in the rough to the right of a bunker. His third shot went in the bunker. He bladed a bunker shot 50 feet from the hole. Then proceeded to three-putt for a triple-bogey.
"That hole was a train-wreck," Spangler said. "I slid right underneath it with a lob wedge. It's a flub. I brushed it off and figured I could birdie 17 and 18. I thought the guys behind me [Cissom, Gleeson and Hulton] were eight, nine or 10 under."
Schmidt rallied over the last nine holes. He birdied four of the last five holes, but couldn't quite get into a playoff. But Cissom, who owned a two-shot lead heading into the final hole, made it interesting. He hit driver off the tee -- most golfers hit less club -- and missed the fairway. His approach landed in a bunker. And he two-putted for bogey.
But it was good enough for the win.
"It was pretty much a struggle from the first green on," Cissom said. "I somehow got it done, and I don't really know how. Maybe it's because I play this course so much."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...