Markham Jr. Picks Up Long-Awaited Win At Senior State Open

  • Friday, June 14, 2024
  • Paul Payne
Joe Markham Jr. shows off the champion’s hardware after winning the Tennessee Senior State Open on Tuesday
Joe Markham Jr. shows off the champion’s hardware after winning the Tennessee Senior State Open on Tuesday
photo by Tennessee PGA Section

The putt itself – an uphill six-footer played just inside the right edge – was one Joe Markham Jr. had made thousands of times over the course of his lengthy career.

But never had the Cleveland native attempted one with the stakes this high, bringing full circle the four decades since his last statewide victory and the influence of his father who instilled a love for the game.

Markham Jr.’s par putt did indeed find the the bottom of the cup on the final hole of the 2024 Tennessee Senior State Open championship last Tuesday at Fairfield Glade’s Stonehenge Golf Course, giving the veteran amateur a one-shot win over Jeff Lyons.

After lipping out for birdie on No. 17, Markham Jr. headed to No. 18 with a slim one-stroke advantage. His approach found a green side bunker, needing a successful up-and-down to avoid a playoff.

“I hit a really good bunker shot on 18 with the green sloping away from me that I thought was going to stop a couple feet from the hole,” Markham Jr. said. “But it kept rolling to about six feet. My only thought was to hit it firm.”

The clutch putt gave Markham Jr. a final score of 6-under 138 over 36-holes, displaying steely resolve down the stretch with pars on the final six holes to win his first state title since claiming the Tennessee State Insurers Junior Championship in 1984.

“Winning this event is incredible, and it’s a little bit of a relief to finally get it done,” Markham Jr. said.

Markham Jr.’s 68 on Monday gave him the first round lead, but the Flagstone Golf Club member found himself trailing after the opening nine in Tuesday’s finale.

Henrik Simonsen of The Honors Course carded four consecutive birdies starting on No. 2 to overcome a one-shot deficit, and Nashville’s Lyons opened birdie-eagle on his way to a front-nine 32.

Meanwhile, Markham Jr. continued his steady play, posting a single birdie along with eight pars headed into the turn, then regained the lead with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11.

“Probably the key holes were 4 and 5 where I made six- and eight-foot putts for par,” Markham Jr. said. “I made a six-footer for par on 15, too, to maintain a one-shot lead at the time. Other than the lip-out on 17, I made every putt I had inside six feet in the final round.”

Four golfers – including 27-time Tennessee Golf Association amateur title holder Tim Jackson – were bunched with only a two-shot separation with four holes to play. But a double-bogey from Lyons on No. 15 and bogeys from Simonsen on 15 and 17 gave Markham Jr. enough wiggle room to par his way home for the victory.

Lyons shot 68 to close at 5-under 139 to place second, while Simonsen, Jackson and Cliff Kresge of Knoxville tied for third at 3-under 141.

Lookout Mountain Club’s Zeb Patten finished sixth at 2-over 146, while Gibby Gilbert Jr. tied for 12th at 5-over 149. The defending champion, amateur Kip Henley, slipped away from his gig serving as Heath Slocum’s caddie on the PGA Champions Tour to hopefully repeat at his old home course, but placed tied for 20th with an 8-over 152.

The victory for Markham Jr. also produced a sense of appreciation for his father, Joe Markham Sr., the longtime golf professional at Cleveland Country Club.

“Without question the greatest influence in my game has been my dad,” Markham Jr. said. “I grew up around the game and he has really been my only instructor.”

Markham Jr. played collegiately at Memphis State and competed in the 1991 U.S. Amateur at The Honors Course before following in his father’s footsteps. He had a two-year stint as an assistant professional at Cleveland Country Club, then spent eight years as a golf professional at Tellico Village until 2003.

After being out of the golf business for four years, Markham Jr. decided to return to local competition in Chattanooga District Golf Association events.  While winning his fair share of tournaments on the senior circuit, he can finally add another state championship trophy to his resume’.

In a the Super Senior competition, Memphis amateur Buzz Fly finished with a 3-over 147 to win by four shots.

Lenny Sisselman of Nashville was second at 7-over 151, and Fred McCord of Collierville placed third after a final tally of 8-over 152.

Signal Mountain’s Tom Baird wound up fifth with an 11-over 155.

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Paul Payne can be emailed at paulpayne6249@gmail.com

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