By Nathan Deen, The BayonetJune 27, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Daniel Kirkland didn't let Neill Hatcher have a chance to tie him on the last hole.
Kirkland entered the final hole of the two-day, 33rd annual Purple and Gold Golf Tournament, held at Fort Benning Golf Course, one shot ahead of Hatcher.
The 27-year-old pine straw seller and former golfer at Glenwood School in Smiths Station, Ala., drove his tee shoot left into trouble, while Hatcher, a 50-year-old financial adviser for Merrill Lynch and four-time champion of the tournament, including last year, was safely in the fairway.
Hatcher hit his approach shot within 15 feet below the hole to give himself a chance to tie or win if Kirkland didn't save par.
"I was in some kind of squirrel hole … not a good lie at all," Kirkland said about his second shot, which he hit about 30 yards toward the green, giving himself about a 12-yard chip shot.
Hatcher said he never had any doubt once Kirkland's ball landed on the green that it was going in.
"It was solid," he said. "There was no way that ball wasn't going in the hole."
Kirkland gave an emphatic fist pump as the ball fell into the cup to secure his first Purple and Gold win.
"I was trying to get it close -- it's just luck when one goes in like that," Kirkland said. "It's hard to win any tournament … especially when you haven't made any putts all day, it's great to make a chip-in."
Kirkland said he had been away from the game for seven years before picking it up again a month ago.
"It was too expensive," he said. "I got tired of not playing; I enjoyed it too much."
Even after seven years, Kirkland said he came back hitting the ball well.
"He hits a mile," Hatcher said.
"Some of his drives were going 350-plus."
But Kirkland said he struggled with putting both days and was thankful he could leave the putter in the bag on No. 9 at the Marshall Course.
"The short game is always the last thing to come back … it came back well there," he said.
Going into the 14th hole, Kirkland and Hatcher were tied at even-par for the tournament along with eventual third-place finisher Rhoades Sturkie.
Two bogeys put Sturkie out of contention and a bogey on Marshall No. 7 put Hatcher one shot back of Kirkland.
"It was a battle," Kirkland said.
"It was a tough match. I just kept making pars. I was 2-over after the first three holes and played even out."
Hatcher, meanwhile, was upset over a bad start. He was 5-over after the first five holes and played 1-under the rest of the way.
But, he said he was happy for Kirkland winning off the chip-in.
"I'll remember this one more than some of my wins," Hatcher said.
"No one likes to lose, but if you're going to lose, losing to a chip -- you'll always remember that."